Getting Fit: Why Cholesterol Matters

by Barry Hill

By Leslie Vandever

Ever noticed how extra pounds stick like super-glue once you pass a “certain age?”

Seems just a couple of months ago you weighed just a teensy bit more than you did when you were a young adult. Back then, if you needed to drop a few pounds, you just ate a little less for a couple of weeks. But now, every time you step on the scale, the number is always rising.

Foods high in cholesterol, photo labeled for commercial reuse.

Foods high in cholesterol, photo labeled for commercial reuse.

The fact is, fitness slipped out the back door a long time ago. You knew it was going, but you were busy. You still are. Your job is demanding. When you’re not at work, there are a million other things to do. The house needs cleaned, the laundry is piling up, the lawn needs mowed, and you’ve got to get to the grocery store. You’ve been scraping the bottom of the mayo jar to make sandwiches for work. If you’re retired, the days are just as busy with volunteer activities, the needs of your family, travelling, and just plain life. Who has time to think about fitness, let alone do something about it?

Well, erm, you do. You can make the time.

Here’s the hard truth: there’s an obesity epidemic in the U.S. About a third of all American adults today are overweight or obese. If you’re one of them, you’re a perfect candidate for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Any or all of them could keep you from participating in your own future.

If the extra baggage on your booty isn’t enough for you, consider what those delicious, easy-to-eat French fries are doing to your insides: they’re plastering layers of sticky plaque along the walls of your arteries—the very arteries that feed into and out of your heart.

The culprit is cholesterol. By itself and in the right quantities, it’s a good thing. Cholesterol is actually a vital type of lipid (fat) molecule, and the body absolutely must have it in order to construct cell membranes.

In fact, your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, all by itself. But cholesterol is also in many of the foods—particularly fast foods and processed foods—that we eat. And too much cholesterol is dangerous. Really dangerous.

There are two main types of cholesterol to pay attention to:

  • LDL (low density lipoprotein) is a type of protein that binds with the cholesterol molecule and carries it to tissues throughout the body, including the arteries. Over time, it can narrow and harden the artery, a condition called atherosclerosis. Because of this, LDL cholesterol is called the “bad” cholesterol. There is more LDL cholesterol than any other kind in the body.
  • HDL (high density lipoprotein) is the “good” cholesterol. It snatches excess cholesterol away from the tissues and delivers it to the liver, which removes it from the body. The lower the level of HDL cholesterol in your blood, the higher your risk of heart disease.

It’s a great argument for getting fit, isn’t it? Just by cutting high fat, high cholesterol foods out of your diet and opting for fresh, high-protein foods like lean meat and fish, eating low-carbohydrate foods like wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice, and plenty of high-fiber, nutritious vegetables and fruit, you’ll lower your LDLs and raise your HDLs to healthy levels. You’re already halfway to getting fit, at age 50 and beyond.

Now add just 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise, like walking, three or four days a week and you’ll make it all the way. Stick to it and you’ll be so fit and healthy that you just may get to see the future—and those cool flying cars like the Jetsons had, too.


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Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer. She also writes a blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis called RheumaBlog, under the pen-name “Wren.” In her spare time, Vandever enjoys cooking, reading and working on the Great American Novel.


Adult Obesity Facts. (2013, Aug. 16) Overweight and Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on January 13, 2014 from

What Is Cholesterol? (2012, Sept. 19) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved on January 13, 2014 from

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