Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It’s mainly made by the liver, but can also be found in some foods
Cholesterol finds its way into the body through various ways:
- Produced by body itself
- Consumption of foods from animals (dairy products, meats)
- Consumption of other plant foods rich in trans fats, palm oil or coconut oil
In human body, cholesterol is carried through two types of blood particles (lipoproteins):
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)- also known as bad cholesterol as it increases the transport of cholesterol into the bloodstream
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL)- also known as good cholesterol as it clears cholesterol from the blood stream.
The balance and levels between these lipoproteins determine the amount of cholesterol in the system, and hence the risk of disease associated with heart.
Cholesterol levels and Cardiovascular disease:
Excess cholesterol in the blood can get deposited in the walls of arteries, causing plaque, leading to a condition known as atherosclerosis.
This form of heart disease narrows blood vessels, decreasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles of the heart.
Lack of oxygen also results in chest pain, a major indicator of heart disease. Over time, the blockage in the artery may completely cut off blood supply to a specific portion of the heart – this leads to a heart attack.
Thus, LDL is the main source of plaque formation in arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack and ischaemic stroke. HDL, on the other hand, reduces the risk of developing heart disease. The female hormone estrogen, also increases the levels of HDL cholesterol in women, which is why premenopausal women are at a lower risk of developing heart disease.
High levels of another type of blood fat, triglyceride are especially found in people with heart disease or diabetes. Together with high cholesterol levels, it increases the risk of or worsens heart disease.
How to keep cholesterol levels under control Here’s how to ensure safe cholesterol levels in the body:
Getting a blood test – A simple blood test known as the Lipid Function Test can measure the levels of different kinds of cholesterol.
The normal cholesterol levels are as follows:
- Total cholesterol – Less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL – Less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL – 40 mg/dL or higher
- Triglycerides – Less than 150 mg/dL
In case you want to know your heart health better one can opt for comprehensive heart packages.
Eating healthy – Diet plays an important role in keeping cholesterol levels down. Foods rich in trans fats, saturated fat and dietary cholesterol further raise the levels of cholesterol in blood. Eating fibre-rich foods and other fats like polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats helps lower cholesterol levels. Alcohol raises the level of triglycerides, increases blood pressure and risk of heart disease.
Keeping a healthy weight – A healthy weight in the normal range of body mass index (BMI) can keep cholesterol levels in check.
Exercising regularly – Regular exercise and or Yoga can keep weight and cholesterol in check.
Giving up smoking – Smoking raises the risk of heart disease by injuring blood vessels and hardening arteries.
Treating high cholesterol levels :
Making lifestyle changes like right diet, physical activity, yoga etc. can help control blood cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol levels can be controlled through medication. However, these drugs have side effects and their regular usage and progress made must be discussed with the doctor regularly.
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