Category : Health & Care
Cholesterol is a commonly misunderstood part of our diets. Most people know they are supposed to avoid foods that are high in cholesterol, but many people do not know what cholesterol is. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in foods, is needed in the body to insulate nerves, make cell membranes and produce certain hormones, and it is an important lipid in some membranes. However, the body makes enough cholesterol, so any dietary cholesterol isn’t needed. Cholesterol plays a major role in human heart health and high cholesterol is a leading risk factor for human cardiovascular disease such as coronary heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol can be good (high-density lipoprotein) or bad (low-density lipoprotein) to the cardiovascular system.
Good and bad cholesterol
There is no such thing as good and bad cholesterol, but the difference is actually in lipoproteins that carry cholesterol. Cholesterol in the blood is carried by the two main types of lipoproteins:
Low-density lipoproteins or LDL (low density lipoprotein), also called “bad” cholesterol, which carries cholesterol from the liver
to the tissues and arteries. The majority of cholesterol in the blood is in the form of LDL. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood, the more you are exposed to cardiovascular and coronary pathologies diseases.
High-density lipoproteins, or HDL (high density lipoprotein), also called “good” cholesterol, which carries cholesterol from the tissues and arteries to the liver and therefore remove cholesterol from your body. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol in the blood the better. High density of HDL cholesterol in your blood can help prevent cardiovascular and coronar y diseases (prevents the formation of deposits of cholesterol in vascular walls).
Most people think cholesterol is a bad thing. It is not! Cholesterol is a lipid and plays an extremely important role in the human body. Hormones, certain vitamins and for fat metabolism necessary bile acids are produced out of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a component of all cell membranes and it is also extremely important for the functioning of the immune system. Humans and animals cannot exist without cholesterol.
Other steroid hormones produced from cholesterol include cortisol, which is involved in regulating bloodsugar levels and defending the body against infection, and aldosterone, which is important for retaining salt and water in the body. The body can even use cholesterol to make a significant amount of vitamin D, the vitamin responsible for strong bones and teeth, when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
Cholesterol is also used to make bile, a greenish fluid that is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. The body needs bile to digest foods that contain fat. Bile acts as an emulsifier — it breaks down large globules of fat into smaller particles so they can mix better with the enzymes that digest fat. Once the fat is digested, bile helps the body to absorb it. The presence of bile in the intestines is required before cholesterol can be absorbed from foods. The body also needs bile in order to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, called fat-soluble vitamins, from food or supplements.
Normal cholesterol level is anything below 200 mg/dl (5 mmol/l) for men and women, or below 160 mg/dl (4 mmol/l) for patients with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Normal HDL cholesterol level is above 40 mg/dl (1,1 mmol/l) for men and above 50 mg/dl (1,3 mmol/l) for women. Normal LDL cholesterol level is below 100 mg/dl (3 mmol/l) for men and women, and below 75 mg/dl (2 mmol/l) for patients who suffer from cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Normal triglycerides level is anything below 150 mg/dl (1,7 mmol/l) for men and women.
When you have too much cholesterol, it can be dangerous to your health because it causes a disease called, hyper cholesterolaemia in which excessive cholesterol starts to accumulate on the arterial walls. Hypercholesterolemia is one of the most threatening factors for the rapid development of atherosclerosis. When LDL cholesterol levels are high, cholesterol is deposited on the walls of arteries and forms a hard substance called plaque. Over time, plaque causes the arteries to become narrower, decreasing blood flow and causing a condition called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
When atherosclerosis affects the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply the muscles of the heart), the condition is called coronary artery disease, which puts a person at risk for having a heart attack. When atherosclerosis affects the blood vessels that supply the brain, the condition is called cerebral vascular disease, which puts a person at risk of having a stroke.
Atherosclerosis may also block blood flow to other vital organs,including the kidneys and intestines. This is why it’s so important to start paying attention to cholesterol levels as a teen — you can delay or prevent serious health problems in the future.
How Plaque Buildup Hurts?
As plaque builds up in the arteries, it will block the amount of blood flow that can get through because it narrows the arteries. When this occurs near vital organs, especially the heart, it can cause serious problems and even death. When the coronary arteries, or the arteries near the heart, become narrowed by plaque buildup, it can cause a heart attack. When the arteries that take blood to the brain are blocked, it can cause a stroke. Both heart attacks and strokes can be life threatening, so monitoring your cholesterol intake and blood levels is very important.
Symptoms of high cholesterol
There are no visible or invisible symptoms of high cholesterol. A patient with high cholesterol does not feel any changes that why it is important to measure cholesterol levels frequently. What you can do is you can go to your personal doctor and ask for measurement in the laboratory. You social security should cover this. You can also buy your own cholesterol meter and do the measurements by yourself. You can also visit a self-pay lab where you can get all 4 values (total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides) measured for little money.
Some of the factors that can lead to high cholesterol are:
Excess weight has been linked to high cholesterol levels.
Heredity: If cholesterol problems or heart disease run in your family, you are at a higher risk for having problems.
Remember the saying “you are what you eat”? Avoid foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat, all of which increase cholesterol levels and your risk of developing heart disease
How to lower cholesterol?
You can lower cholesterol by following useful tips provided below.
Eating healthy food: Eat food that provides adequate nutrition. Your diet should contain as little saturated fatty acids as possible. Saturated fatty acids are mostly found in meat and meat products, full fat cheese and whole milk, margarine, fried foods and salty snacks. Replace these bad fats with good ones (unsaturated fatty acids), which are found in olives and olive oil, nuts, fish (such as salmon and mackerel) or seeds (flaxseeds).
Regular physical activity: As an effective preventive measure, experts advise regular physical activity. Recent studies show that exercise reduces the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in blood and on the other hand also contributes to higher values of good cholesterol (HDL). It is advised to exercise at least half an hour per day. If you don’t like sports, make sure you take a half hour walk every day.
Maintain healthy body weight: A very important measure to reduce cholesterol levels is to reduce excessive weight and maintain a normal body weight. Losing a few extra pounds (5 to 10% of body weight) has a positive impact not only on the concentration of fat in your blood, but also positively impacts regulation of blood pressure and blood sugar. Use this tool to calculate your ideal body weight: BMI calculator.
Say goodbye to bad habits: You should reduce excessive alcohol consumption and / or smoking. Try not to be exposed to stress or find some relaxation techniques like yoga or get yourself a hobby.
Consume dietary supplements: Many drug stores offer products that naturally reduce blood cholesterol levels. Such supplements usually contain plant sterols (ie sterols derived from vegetable oils). Fish oil is another example of dietary supplement good for lowering cholesterol because it contains a lot of omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for lowering cholesterol levels.
Drugs for lowering cholesterol
If above tips are not enough to keep your cholesterol levels within acceptable limits, you should consult your doctor who will most likely prescribe you drugs for lowering cholesterol. In general there are four groups of cholesterol lowering drugs. These are fibrates, statins, inhibitors of cholesterol absorption and ion exchangers.
Such drugs must be taken regularly and usually trough whole life, because studies show that the treatment is not successful if patient is taking drugs only for a short period of time or only occasionally. If you have been prescribed with one of the drugs for lowering cholesterol you should still follow the rules of healthy eating, be physically active and abandon bad habits.
High cholesterol foods
About two-thirds of cholesterol which is present in blood is produced by liver, the remaining cholesterol is provided by eating cholesterol rich food. Cholesterol is found in foods of animal origin: meat, ham, sausages, sausages, liver, and other meat products, egg yolks (while whites do not contain cholesterol), shrimp and dairy products like butter, cream and cheese. Try to avoid these foods if you have high cholesterol levels.
Keep in mind that the recommended intake of cholesterol with food is no more than 200 mg (0.007 oz) per day.
Foods for lowering cholesterol
Problems may arise if cholesterol levels are too high. Below you can find some healthy foods that lower cholesterol levels naturally.
Walnuts and hazelnuts: Nuts contain a lot of unsaturated fats, vitamin E and magnesium. Nuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which also affect the health of blood vessels. Because this food is very rich in calories enjoy it in smaller quantities.
Garlic: Garlic has many healing effects and besides all it lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, risk of blood clots and acts as an excellent antioxidant. One clove of garlic per day is advised.
Avocado: Among all kinds of fruit the amount of fat is highest in avocados. Three-quarters of fat found in avocado is non saturated fat. Avocados contain oleic acid, which helps lowering cholesterol and is an ideal food for those who cannot consume fat of animal origin.
Blueberries: Due to its high content of antioxidants, blueberries will help lower high cholesterol.
Fish: Fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). Include fish meat in your diet at least twice a week. Healthiest fish are sardines, salmon, mackerel and trout. Find out more in this article: Fish meat is super food!
Flaxseed: Results of the survey, which was conducted at Iowa State University in USA have shown that a daily intake of three tablespoons of flaxseed (oil) reduces high cholesterol by 10 percent in three months. Flaxseed is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and also contains magnesium, manganese, iron, and vitamin E.
Olives and olive oil: Olive oil contains just the right combination of antioxidants that reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and leaves harmless cholesterol (HDL) intact. Doctors advise to eat two tablespoons of olive oil per day.
The best method for lowering Cholesterol is eat undigestble fiber, mainly found on top of the grain (grain husk). In addition, take combination of organic food supplements with antioxidants.