What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is simply a waxy substance produced by the liver and found in some foods and tends to accumulate in the blood.
It is needed to manufacture vitamin D and some hormones, build cell walls and create bile salts that assist in digestion of fats easily.
Actually, your body makes sufficient cholesterol so that even if you never touched another cheese, fry or greasy burger, you would be okay. But it’s very difficult to avoid cholesterol totally since many of our daily foods contain it.
Excess cholesterol in the body called hypercholesterolemia can lead to serious problems like heart disease, heart attack, and others. There are many factors that contribute to high cholesterol, but the good news here is that there are also things you can do to control them.
Overview of Cholesterol
Lipids are fats that commonly found throughout the body. Cholesterol which is a type of lipid found in foods from animal sources. This simply means that eggs, meats, and whole-fat dairy products including milk, cheese, and ice cream, are loaded with cholesterol while vegetables, fruits, and grains contain none. The liver has the capacity of manufacturing about 1000 milligrams of cholesterol per day and you probably consume about 150 to 250 milligrams in your daily foods.
As cholesterol can’t travel alone through the blood stream, it has to combine with certain proteins. These proteins behave like trucks, picking up the molecules of cholesterol and transporting it to different parts of the body. When this happens, the cholesterol and protein form a compound called lipoprotein.
Types of cholesterol
There are two most important types of lipoproteins which are:
1. High-density lipoprotein (or HDL)
2. Low-density lipoprotein (or LDL)
You might have heard people call LDL cholesterol “bad cholesterol” and HDL cholesterol “good cholesterol” because of their very different effects on the body system. Most cholesterol is LDL cholesterol, and this is the type that has high vulnerability of clogging the blood vessels –preventing blood from flowing through the body the way it should.
About 25 to 33.3% of the total amount of cholesterol is HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol takes other cholesterol back to the liver, where it can be metabolized or processed and sent out of the body.
Why people worry about high cholesterol?
When you have high cholesterol, it can be very toxic or dangerous to your health. Whenever LDL cholesterol levels are excess, cholesterol is deposited on the walls of arteries and forms a hard massy substance called plague. As time goes on, the plague causes the arteries to become more narrower –decreasing blood flow and leading to a condition known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the blood vessels.
When arthrosclerosis exerts its effects on the coronary arteries which are the blood vessels supplying the muscles of the heart, the condition termed coronary heart disease follows and in turn put the person at risk of having heart attack.
And arthrosclerosis affects the blood vessels that supply the brain, a condition known as cerebral vascular disease which puts the person at risk of having stroke follows. Atherosclerosis may also occlude or block blood flow to other vital organs including kidneys and intestines. That is why it is very important to start paying attention to cholesterol levels as a younger adult –you can delay or prevent serious health problems in future.
What Causes High LDL (low-density cholesterol)?
Some of the factors that can contribute to high cholesterol are:
Overweight: excess weight has been associated with high cholesterol levels. This is because the weightier we are, the higher the accumulation of cholesterols.
Heredity: when cholesterol problems or heart disease run in your family, then you are at a high risk of developing heart problems.
Diet: Remember the dictum, “You are what you eat”. Our daily food consumption can predispose us to hypercholesterolemia, especially foods from animal products. Avoid foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats, all of which heighten cholesterol levels and your risk of developing heart problems.
Lack of Physical activity: Exercise is a special medicine of the body which many tend to ignore. It is not only good for your heart, and brain but also the entire body systems. Exercise tends to increase HDL levels which reduce your chances of developing hypercholesterolemia and eventually heart disease.
Age: The risk of high cholesterol increases as you get older in life because in old age, the liver becomes less able to eliminate LDL or “bad” cholesterol. That is why it’s very crucial to embrace good and healthy lifestyles in your youthful period.
Smoking: cigarette smoking increases the risk of high cholesterol. It destroys the walls of your blood vessels, making them vulnerable to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking equally lowers your level of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
Diabetes mellitus: Diabetes equally contributes to higher levels of dangerous cholesterol known as very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and lowers HDL cholesterol. Moreover, high blood sugar damages the linings of your arteries.
Hypertension: people with high blood pressure are also prone to cholesterol leading to more detrimental effects.
Signs and Symptoms of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol has no specific symptoms. Laboratory investigation (blood test) is the only way to detect if you have it or not. Therefore, it is advisable you go for medical check- up regularly to know the condition of your body and handle any issue that might arise on time.
Prevention of cholesterol
What can I do to prevent or lower my cholesterol? you might ask. Well, there are many things you can do to lower cholesterol which are:
1.Regular exercise: An aerobic exercise like biking, walking, and swimming –strengthens your heart lowers cholesterol and helps you to lose over weight.
2. Quitting smoking: This can help decrease the risk of heart disease.
3. Eating a diet that contains many low-cholesterol foods and they include vegetables, whole grains (breads, and cereals), legumes (beans) and fish.
4.Eating a diet that is very low in saturated and trans fats. Substitute saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats. Like with olive oil or other heart-friendly oils instead of using butter, or stick margarine.
5. If you like eating meats, try using lean meats like skinless poultry.
Always make sure you trim off all noticeable fat before cooking and drain the fat from pan after browning meats.
6. Avoid regular frying of food items; instead try boiling, broiling, baking, roasting, poaching, steaming or sautéing.
7. Quit consuming whole milk. Use low-fat or nonfat milk which contains all the nutrients without all the fat. Try using low-fat or nonfat yogurt and cheeses or cottage cheese. You can also replace low-fat buttermilk or yogurt in a recipe that calls for cream cheese or sour cream.
8. Instead of eggs, just try eating egg whites, or cholesterol-free commercial egg substitutes.
9. Instead of meat, embrace beans, peas, lentils or tofu in your diet.
10. Use liquid vegetable oil instead of butter, shortening or stick margarine. Keep away from products that contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, for they are dangerous to your health.
11. Run away from commercially prepared baked goods, which are often made with hydrogenated oils or trans fats.
12. In need of snacks that are low in fat and cholesterol? Then try eating fruits, raw veggies, and low-fat dips, low-fat cookies, and crackers, plain unsalted popcorn, or pretzels, gelatins or low-fat yogurt.
13. Quit alcoholic intake. Take alcohol in moderation, if at all.
Manage stress well for it can disrupt your body system and lead to hypercholesterolemia.