What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat that’s found in the body cells. The oil-based substance is insoluble and doesn’t mix with blood. Which usually carried around the body by the lipoproteins. There are two types of cholesterol: the Low Density “bad” Cholesterol which is normally carried around the body by low-density lipoprotein (LDL). High levels of LDL can cause a build-up of plaque in the arteries, leading to heart disease. High Density “good” cholesterol are transported by High–Density Lipoprotein (HDL). A human being cannot survive without cholesterol. This is because everybody cells need to have it. It helps the body to construct the cell walls and they are basic components of certain digestive acids.
Good Cholesterol Levels
For a human being to be healthy, they need to have good cholesterol levels. A good cholesterol level for an adult should not be more than 200 mg per deciliter. If the reading of the level is between 200-239 mg/dL, then this is considered as a borderline high. If the reading is more than 240mg/dL then that is a high cholesterol level. Aside from those, the LDL “bad” cholesterol levels should not be more than 100mg/ Dl. Good cholesterol helps to lower the risk of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure etc.
What causes high cholesterol?
Note that cholesterol is a vital component in the body. However, too much of it can be harmful. It becomes a silent killer that can put a person in a fatal risk. Every body cell contains a certain amount of cholesterol. It is a vital compound that helps in food digestion, hormone production, as well as the generation of vitamin D. Vitamin D, helps to strengthen the bones and enhance the digestive health. While cholesterol can be naturally manufactured by the body, it’s also derived from foods.
Foods and Beverages
High cholesterol foods lead to increased levels of cholesterol in the body. Eating foods which have too much-saturated fats normally lead to increased cholesterol levels. Some of the high cholesterol foods include butter, goose, dripping and lard fat, ghee, yogurt, milk, full-fat cheese, palm oils, coconut cream, dairy cream, coconut oil, sugary foods such as cakes, pies, puddings, pastries among other. They also include Trans fats found in processed and fried foods as well as saturated fats.
Genetics, Obesity, and Overweight
High cholesterol levels can also be caused by obesity and being overweight. Besides those, genetics is also a huge contributor to high cholesterol. Studies show that some people inherit high LDL cholesterol through a condition that’s called familial hypercholesterolemia. Furthermore, certain conditions such as pregnancy, hormonal changes, underactive –thyroid gland, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes etc. are all associated with increased cholesterol levels in the blood. Anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, and progestin are some of the drugs that can contribute to this.
Age, Sex and Stress
Age and sex play a crucial role in determining the levels of cholesterol in the body. Naturally, women who have reached menopause have lower levels of cholesterol than men who are of the same age. Overall, men and women experience increased cholesterol levels up to the age of 65 years. Mental stress is another contributing factor. Over time, stress causes an increase in cholesterol by affecting the affected person’s lifestyle. They may console themselves with fatty foods or alcohol which lower the good cholesterol. This can lead to high blood pressure, heart damage, liver damage, diabetes and an increase in the level of triglyceride.
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
Although high cholesterol in the blood system is considered as a high-risk factor, it’s not easy to determine its signs and symptoms. Unless you do a routine checkup by doing regular blood testing, then the cholesterol levels in your body will simply go unnoticed. A high cholesterol buildup can mainly be detected through stroke and heart attack.
High cholesterol causes a buildup of plaque on the arteries. This leads to a high risk of insufficient blood supply to the brain. When the brain can’t receive enough blood, what happens next is stroke. Note that stroke is a high-risk medical emergency that should be treated as soon as possible. Some of the common symptoms of stroke:
• Facial asymmetry which could be a disfigured mouth, a drooping eyelid etc.
• Sudden dizziness.
• Sudden loss of coordination and balance.
• Lack of movement on one side of the body.
• Double, blackened or blurred vision.
• A severe and sudden headache
• Numbness on some parts of the body such as arm, leg or face.
2. Heart attack
The plaque buildup usually causes the arteries which supply blood to the heart to narrow. The process which is known as atherosclerosis usually happens over time without any symptoms or signs. When a piece of the plaque breaks off, a blood clot forms around. It creates a block that inhibits blood flow, nutrient and oxygen supply to the heart. This deprivation damages the heart and leads to heart attack. Some of the Signs of a heart attack include:
• Difficulty in breathing
• Excess fatigue
• A feeling of impending-doom.
• Arching of the arms or chest.
• Squeezing or tightness of the chest and arms
Treating High Cholesterol
How can high cholesterol levels in blood be treated? Well, there are a number of ways and they include:
1. Lifestyle Change
This is usually the first approach that is recommended by doctors. Individuals suffering from high cholesterol levels are normally advised to cut off foods with high amounts of cholesterol from their diet. Exercises such as cardio also help to shed extra fat that is normally associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol. Cardio helps to increase the rate of metabolism in the body and enhances the conversion of fat to fuel. Note that a 30-minute exercise daily can greatly help to increase the levels of HDL. Besides those, it’s important to avoid drinking alcohol and smoking. Alcohol and cigarettes help to increase the amount of “bad” cholesterol which can lead to stroke and heart attack.
2. Lipid-lowering therapy
A lipid-lowering therapy is administered to an individual suffering from hypercholesterolemia. The prescription depends on the level of cholesterol as well as other risk factors. The treatment is usually prescribed for those people with higher risks of suffering a heart attack. Statins are a group of medications which help to lower high cholesterol levels. They include atorvastatin, fluvastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin among others.
Foods that Lower Cholesterol
As stated above, foods affect the level of cholesterol. They can either lower it or increase it. There is a wide range of foods which can be used to lower the levels. These foods are usually known as the cholesterol busters and they should be included in your everyday diet. Some of the superfoods which may be used to create a low cholesterol diet include:
Foods Fortified with Stanols and Sterols
Plant-based stanols and sterols can quickly help to lower the level of cholesterol in the body. They are naturally found in superfoods such as nuts, whole grains, vegetable oils, vegetables, and fruits. Stanols and sterols mimic how cholesterol works and compete with it when it comes to absorption. Consuming them in a span of three weeks can reduce the levels by up to ten percent.
Foods rich in Unsaturated Fats
To lower the levels of cholesterol, men are usually advised to keep their daily intake of saturated fat below 30g and 20g or women. However, it’s important to replace the saturated fats with unsaturated fats but in modest amounts. Some of the foods that are rich in unsaturated fats include nuts, avocado, vegetable oils, oily fish, vegetable spreads etc.
Vegetables and Fruits
They contain low amounts of saturated fats. Adding vegetables and fruits in your daily diet helps to reduce the levels of saturated fat intake. They are the best sources of soluble fibers which help to lower cholesterol. They include pulses such as lentils, peas, and beans. Okra, apples, sweet potatoes, prunes, broccoli and strawberries are also good sources of soluble fiber.
Soya Foods have low amounts of saturated fats. They contain the special soy protein which helps to regulate the high cholesterol. Research studies show that soya foods can lower cholesterol by up to six percent.
It’s known that all nuts contain high amounts of fiber, protein, vitamin E, natural sterols, potassium, unsaturated fats, and other beneficial nutrients. Taking a handful of nuts everyday i.e. 30 to 40 g can significantly lower the cholesterol levels in the body by a five percent average.
Oat and Barley
Barley and oats are some of the common foods which contain high amounts of the beta-glucan fiber. If beta glucan is ingested, it’s absorbed into and forms a gel around cholesterol found in the intestines. This way, the body will fail to absorb them. The daily recommended amount of beta-glucan is around 3g.
The best way of living a healthy life is ensuring that you have low cholesterol levels. You can do this by engaging in healthy eating habits and working out. It’s also important to avoid stressing and manage your weight. To ensure that you are on the safe side, regularly go for screening.