Cholesterol is often a dreaded word, into the minds of misinformed people; however the truth is that it is a vital part of the body’s chemistry. Every human and animal cell contains cholesterol. In addition to the cholesterol that an individual consumes from eating animal based foods, our body also has the ability to make all the cholesterol that is needed for various functions.
It is important to maintain cholesterol in the normal levels to attain its maximum benefits. Cholesterol is used to make bile that is produced by the liver. It is fundamentally used to protect the nerves, make new cell tissues, and produce certain hormones which are required for the normal development and functioning of the human body
Cholesterol is naturally waxy substance made by our liver and is a combination of lipid and steroid. It is minimally soluble in water. To be transported across the blood vessels it requires the help of certain lipoproteins.
Lipoproteins come in two forms:
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL)
- Triglycerides is a major component of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL)
- High density lipoprotein (HDL)
Low Density Lipoproteins (Bad Cholesterol)
Low Density Lipoproteins also known as (LDL) or bad cholesterols as they deposit cholesterol on the artery walls, causing the formation of a hard thick substance called cholesterol plaque. Lower levels of LDL cholesterol reflect a lower risk of heart disease while its elevated levels are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Does lowering LDL cholesterol prevent coronary heart diseases?
Dr. Zakia Khan eminent Cardiologist from Fortis Hospital answers, “Lowering LDL Cholesterol reduces risk of heart disease and hence, drugs are recommended for secondary prevention in patients with heart disease and for primary prevention, in people with risk factors.”
Other than medications, making certain lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, following a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, losing excess weight can help lower cholesterol levels.
High Density Lipoproteins (Good Cholesterol)
High Density Lipoproteins also known as (HDL) or good cholesterol as they perform the function of removing cholesterol from the blood vessels and carrying them back to the liver. They also help in preventing accumulation of cholesterol in the blood vessels.
Dr Zakia Khan suggests, “Exercising regularly and having a healthy diet would help in increasing HDL levels.”
The triglycerides are a form of fat made in the body. Higher levels of triglycerides can be due to obesity, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity. People with high triglycerides generally have high total cholesterol level including a high LDL level and a low HDL level. Most individuals who have diabetes or heart disease generally have higher triglycerides levels.
Who needs screening for cholesterol?
Any individual can develop high cholesterol levels regardless of age or sex. There are no signs and symptoms that would help an individual to diagnose higher cholesterol levels. Only a routine blood examination will help you detect the level of cholesterol in your blood. The high levels of cholesterol come under scanner only when there is some major trouble that needs to be evaluated.
It is suggested that people above 35 should get at least one Medical Checkup annually. After 40, doctors suggest a Lipid Profile medical checkup every 6 months.
What are the desirable levels?
Dr. Zakia Khan eminent Cardiologist from Fortis hospital says, “The desirable levels are
Total cholesterol - below 200 mg
LDL cholesterol - below 70 for people with heart disease and
below 130 for normal people with no risk factors.”
She adds that “Women generally have higher HDL levels than men and are protected by their hormones till menopause. Their HDL levels and risk for heart disease becomes the same as males after menopause.”
How can any individual prevent high cholesterol?
Hereditary and diet have a significant influence on a person’s HDL, LDL and total cholesterol level. Diet that is high in saturated fats and cholesterol raise the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Dr Zakia khan suggests that most individual’s can prevent high cholesterol by adhering to the following recommendations:
*Eat high fiber (Oats, beans, fruits and vegetables), low fat (Avoid red meats and egg yolks) and low carbohydrate (Avoid direct sugars) diet. (5 foods that fight cholesterol click here)
*Eat less of dairy products.
*Lose Weight (Optimize BMI. Concentrate on reducing belly fat).
*Exercise 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week.
*Take medications whenever recommended by the doctor
It is suggested that medication for lowering of cholesterol should be taken only after consulting the physician.”
A combination of high levels of total and LDL cholesterol with low levels of HDL cholesterol is undesirable while a combination of low levels of total and LDL cholesterol and high levels of HDL cholesterol is encouraged.