The word Cholesterol brings to mind something that has several ill effects and is harmful for ones health. Cholesterol, in fact, is produced by the body itself for building cells and maintaining the organ functions. Liver significantly produces about 80% of the cholesterol and the other 20% is provided by food products such as dairy products, meat, fish and poultry. Elevated cholesterol levels are harmful for the body but its effects may take years to show up. Effects of cholesterol may also lead to heart diseases and stroke, but it can be well controlled with proper management.
After a food intake, cholesterol from the diet is absorbed and stored in the liver. It is broken down and released for bodily functions and hormonal synthesis. The stored cholesterol on exceeding the breakdown amount, starts accumulating in the heart arteries, subsequently leading to narrow arteries and causing various heart diseases. Deposition of the cholesterol in arteries is termed as “plaque formation.” It causes thinning of arteries thus leading to reduction in the blood flow. Over time this may lead to total blockage of artery carrying blood to the heart. Sometimes this deposit can even rupture and cause clot formation which may cause heart attack. The decrease in blood flow, due to the plaque formation in arteries, can lead to chest pain or angina.
Cholesterol, a form of fat, binds to protein to form Lipoprotein, which flows through the blood vessels. Depending on the amount of protein relative to cholesterol, it is classified as Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) orVery Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL).
LDL has high cholesterol ratio compared to protein, which gets deposited in arteries and is also known as a “bad” cholesterol. HDL has higher protein ratio and is thus referred as a “good” cholesterol. VLDL has significantly low protein than LDL. For a healthy heart HDL should always be higher than LDL.
Elevated cholesterol level is highly prevalent worldwide and medications play an important role in regulating the levels. Along with the meditation, the diet and lifestyle modifications are important aspects of cholesterol management. According to a report by Center of Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. , at least 71 million Americans have raised cholesterol levels and only one out of every three adults has cholesterol limits within control. It is definitely an alarming situation which needs an immediate attention.
Diet and genetics play an important role in determining the cholesterol levels. Simple lifestyle changes that can help in improving HDL and its management are:
- Exercise regularly: It improves the blood circulation throughout the body. Being overweight is a risk factor, so weight loss should be one of the goals. At least 30 minutes of exercise for five days a week is ideal.
- Diet modification: It is quite important to follow a healthy diet. Increased fiber intake, which is found in fruits like apple, pear, nuts as walnut, almond and fish as tuna and salmon, is preferred. It is recommended to have controlled intake of dairy products, meat and saturated fat. Olive oil is heart friendly and apart from lowering cholesterol it also helps in controlling Diabetes and High Blood Pressure.
- Smoking increases LDL levels and should be completely avoided.
Along with this, a regular screening to determine alteration in cholesterol levels is beneficial. Inculcating all these habits and modifying lifestyle is helpful in managing the elevated cholesterol levels and its associated effects on other organs. All these commitments are beneficial which help in stabilizing cholesterol, reducing chances of other diseases and contributing a step towards a hearty and healthy life.
By Mitaly P. Agarwal