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Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body. It is an essential component of cell membranes and is used by the body to produce hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help digest fats.
Cholesterol can be obtained through the diet, primarily from animal-based foods such as meat, dairy products, and eggs, but the liver also produces cholesterols to meet the body’s needs. Cholesterols are transported in the bloodstream by particles called lipoproteins.
There are two types of lipoproteins that transport cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterols because it can build up in the walls of arteries, forming plaques that can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where arteries become narrowed and hardened, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. On the other hand, HDL cholesterols is often called “good” cholesterols because it helps remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and carries it back to the liver for processing and removal.
The levels of LDL and HDL cholesterols in the bloodstream are influenced by various factors, including diet, exercise, genetics, and medications. High levels of LDL cholesterols and low levels of HDL cholesterols are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
To help maintain healthy cholesterols levels, it is recommended to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources while limiting saturated and trans fats. Exercise and weight management can also help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. For people with high cholesterol levels, medications such as statins may be prescribed to lower cholesterols levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.