Lipoproteins are spherical particles that are found throughout the body and carry fats and proteins.
There are two ways in which a person gets the fat that the body needs: through the diet and those that the body itself produces, called endogenous fats.
Historically, fats or lipids have had a bad press: they have been associated almost exclusively with obesity and cardiovascular disease.
But this is not completely true. Although there are fats that harm health, there are others that are essential for the body to function.
Below we describe the most important types of lipoproteins, and their functions, advantages and disadvantages.
Chylomicrons. They are lipoproteins rich in triglycerides, which are produced by intestinal cells from fats that come from food.
Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL’s). They are lipoproteins also rich in triglycerides produced by the liver.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). They are the main carriers of cholesterol in the blood, taking it from the liver to the tissues that need cholesterol such as the adrenal glands.
High-density lipoproteins (HDLs). These lipoproteins do the reverse way to the previous ones: they carry cholesterol from the tissues to the liver.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in every cell in the body. The body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help it digest food.
Your body produces all the cholesterol it needs, as we have already said. But cholesterol is also found in foods of animal origin, such as egg yolks, meat and cheese, which causes their levels in the body to increase when consuming these foods.
However, what few know is that endogenous cholesterol, the one produced by your body, is regulated based on the amount of food you eat that is high in cholesterol.
At least 25% of the world population achieves an organic cholesterol balance due to this compensation mechanism.
But others must control their cholesterol for the following reasons.
If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can combine with other substances and form plaques. The plaque sticks to the walls of your blood vessels. This accumulation is called arteriosclerosis. It can cause coronary artery disease, which can narrow or even block them.
If you have large plaque deposits in your arteries, a piece of plaque can break. This can cause a blood clot to form. If the clot is large enough, it can block some or all of the blood flow in a coronary artery.
If the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is reduced or blocked, it can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
Plaque can also build up in other arteries in your body, including those that carry oxygen-rich blood to your brain and extremities. This can lead to problems like carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
Balance: how to improve lipoprotein levels
Although the numbers of healthy lipoprotein levels have varied over time, healthy levels are currently considered to be:
- Triglycerides: below 150 milligrams per deciliter.
- LDL cholesterol: below 100 milligrams per deciliter.
- HDL cholesterol: at least 60 milligrams per deciliter.
Although genetics has a role in your levels or how your body controls cholesterol levels, the following is a list to stick in the fridge, what you can do on your part to maintain a healthy balance.
Eat more fiber. Legumes, whole grains, whole products, fruits, nuts, seeds, all these products can help you lower LDL cholesterol (popularly known as bad cholesterol) and also triglycerides, by 5 to 10%.
Reduce body fat. Achieving a healthy weight, your ideal weight, can help keep cholesterol levels stable and prevent heart disease.
Increase physical exercise. Walking, walking, walking, or any other aerobic exercise will boost your body to lower cholesterol levels.
Limit consumption of meats and processed foods, and sugar. Although popular, sausages and bacon are your enemies if you have high cholesterol, or want to keep it at a healthy level. The same goes for sugar.
Research also suggests that quitting smoking, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and reducing alcohol consumption can help improve blood lipid levels.
Consult with your GP because this is when you should start taking care of yourself to add healthy years to your life.
Sources: Medlineplus, Scientific Studies, Medical News Today.