Cholesterol isn’t all bad

Cholesterol gets lots of bad press, and for good reason. An estimated 24 million women and 18 million men have total cholesterol levels of 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher increasing their risk of heart attack and stroke.

But cholesterol isn’t all bad. The June issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource gives the lowdown on this fatty substance that’s found in all cells of your body and is vital for life.

Cholesterol is essential for the normal structure, function and repair of cell membranes (the outside cover of the cell). It’s essential for proper nerve conduction and brain function, and it’s needed to make Vitamin D and sex steroids such as estrogen and testosterone. Abnormally low levels of cholesterol have been linked to depression and anxiety and may indicate poor or declining health.

In an ideal world, everyone would have a low level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” kind, and a high level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” kind. Your liver makes much cholesterol, but diet plays a role too. Working with your doctor, make a plan to keep your cholesterol levels in check.

Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic.

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