CHOLESTEROL plays an important role in the body’s functioning, but too much in your bloodstream can cause serious health problems, including heart disease and heart attacks.
Cholesterol is a waxy fatty substance found in all cells of the body. It forms in the liver and helps your body build new cells, insulate nerves, and produce hormones.
It also contributes to the structure of cell walls, manufactures digestive bile acids in the intestine and allows the body to produce vitamin D. It combines with proteins to form lipoproteins, which transport cholesterol in the blood. .
Normally, the liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs. However, cholesterol also enters your body from foods such as animal foods, including milk, eggs, and meat.
There are two types of lipoproteins, namely high density lipoproteins (HDL) and low density lipoproteins (LDL).
HDL carries cholesterol to the cells of the body and then back to the liver where it is broken down or passed out of the body as waste. This is called the good cholesterol.
LDL is known as bad cholesterol because it transports cholesterol to the cells that need it but does not carry excess cholesterol back to the liver. If there is too much cholesterol for the cells to use, plaque can form in the walls of the arteries.
This can lead to atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, which can restrict blood flow through the arteries to the heart, brain, and rest of the body.
If insufficient blood and oxygen reach your heart, you may experience chest pain. If the blood supply to any part of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.
High cholesterol is not in itself a disease and does not cause any symptoms of disease. However, because it can cause health problems, it should be avoided.
Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lowers your risk of developing heart disease and lowers your risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease, even if you already have it.
Since high cholesterol does not cause any symptoms on its own, many people are unaware that their cholesterol level is too high. If your arteries are narrowing as a result of plaque buildup from high cholesterol, you may only suspect it when an artery becomes so narrowed or blocked that it causes a heart attack or stroke.
It is therefore important to know from time to time what your cholesterol level is. This can only be done by means of a blood test.
Some doctors and health care professionals recommend that adults have their cholesterol levels measured at least once every 5 years and annually starting at age 65.
The blood test performed is called a lipoprotein profile. The test includes finding out total cholesterol levels, LDL levels, HDL levels, and triglyceride levels.
Factors Affecting Cholesterol
Several factors can affect your cholesterol level. They include your diet. Saturated fats, trans fats and carbohydrates in the foods you eat raise cholesterol levels.
Reducing the amount of saturated fats, trans fats and sugars in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol levels. Increasing the amount of fiber and plant-based sterols, which are found in greater amounts in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, may also help lower LDL cholesterol.
Being overweight, which is itself a risk factor for heart disease, can also raise your cholesterol levels. Losing weight helps lower your LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It can also increase your HDL.
Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. It is recommended to try to be physically active for 30 minutes each day.
As you age, cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.
Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body produces. Hypercholesterolemia can be hereditary.
Some medical conditions can cause cholesterol levels in the blood to rise. These include hypothyroidism, liver disease, and kidney disease.
Certain medications, such as steroids and progestins, can also raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.
Although some people need medication to lower high cholesterol, adopting a healthy lifestyle, i.e. eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking, can be enough to prevent high cholesterol and help lower cholesterol if it has become too high.
Changing your diet should play a major role in controlling your cholesterol levels.
It’s easy to overeat, which can lead to weight gain and increased cholesterol.
There is an easy way to find out how much you need to eat from the food served to you. A serving of meat or fish is roughly what would fit in the palm of your hand.
A serving of fresh fruit is about the size of your fist.
Finally, a snack of nuts or a serving of cooked vegetables, rice or pasta should fit in your cupped hand.
Fruits and vegetables are good for you. Target five to nine servings each day. This can lower your LDL level.
Increase your omega-3 intake by eating fish twice a week.
Fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3s, which are a type of fat your body needs.
Omega-3s also help lower triglyceride levels.
They can also lower cholesterol and slow the growth of plaque in the arteries.
Start your day with whole grains.
A bowl of oatmeal is a smart choice.
It fills you up, so you don’t overeat at lunch.
Fiber also curbs LDL cholesterol.
Whole grains aren’t just for breakfast. You have many options to have them later in the day, having brown rice or popcorn.
- The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo Wellness program, which aims to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic about any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health condition. — [email protected] or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 024-2773 0663