While most of us are afraid of the term ‘Cholesterol’, very few actually understand what it means. Cholesterol is a type of fat known as lipid which is found in the body. It is a necessary component of our blood that builds healthy cells for us to function. Each and every one of us has it in our blood. It only becomes a medical condition when the amount of cholesterol in our blood rises above normal which makes you more susceptible to heart diseases and other health conditions. In case you suspect yourself of having a cholesterol problem or are, it is of utmost importance that you book an online consultation with a general physician to confirm and further, start your treatment.
There are different types of cholesterol- in simple terms good and bad cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow and High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.
The normal rate of cholesterol in your blood is anything below 170. 170-199 is borderline and 200 plus is considered high. These numbers can vary slightly according to age, body mass and gender. Studies conducted in India have shown that 25-30% of the urban population suffer from high cholesterol.
There are various causes for high cholesterol which include being genetically predisposed to heart conditions, following an unhealthy diet, smoking and having other complementary health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Although this disease could possibly be deadly, it can be controlled by making a few lifestyle changes. If you are a patient with high cholesterol, here’s a list of changes you can implement in your life today which will help you control your cholesterol levels:
1. Maintain a healthy diet
One of the main sources of cholesterol is our food intake. Specifically, saturated fats are the main carrier of bad cholesterol as well as other unhealthy fats. Other sources of cholesterol include red meat and full-fat dairy products. You must also reduce your salt intake. Hence, to improve your cholesterol levels- you should include more fruits, vegetables and cereals in your diet, as it also helps to prevent it from returning. Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. These are “good” fats and beneficial for your heart. Wild-caught oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are especially beneficial. Aim for 2 6-oz. servings every week. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and add flavour and variety to your diet. Aim for 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. This should not include potatoes, corn, or rice as these count as carbohydrates. Remember to always pick “good” fats over “bad” fats. “Bad” fats include saturated and trans fats and can be found in butter, coconut and palm oil, saturated or partially hydrogenated vegetable fats such as shortening and margarine, animal fats in meats., Fats in whole-milk dairy products, etc. Make sure to avoid trans fat completely.
2. Follow a regular exercise routine
Exercise helps to regulate entire body function. It keeps you healthy physically as well mentally. Most importantly, it helps to boost the good cholesterol or HDL in your body and also increases the size of LDL cholesterol particles which make them less harmful.
3. Quit smoking and moderate alcohol intake
High cholesterol causes blockages in your arteries and blood vessels. Smoking causes the walls of your blood vessels to weaken and thus makes you more prone to accumulate fatty acids in your arteries. It also lowers the HDL or good cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is produced in your liver and excess drinking majorly harms your liver and hence hinders the production of HDL in your body. Instead, you should look at ways to add more fibre to your diet. Whole grains (such as oat bran, whole and rolled oats, and barley). Legumes (such as beans and peas). Nuts and seeds (such as ground flaxseed) are recommended.
3. Keeping a watch on your weight
Obesity and High BMI make you more prone to clogging in your arteries and heart diseases. Having a BMI greater than 30 increases your chances of high cholesterol many times over. Hence, to control your cholesterol levels, you must try and maintain a healthy weight.
4. Find a healthy way to manage stress
Stress affects your body negatively in various aspects, not just mentally but after a certain manageable level, it starts to affect you physically as well. When you experience high stress, your cortisol levels also increase. This in turn increases the production of LDL or bad cholesterol in your blood. Hence, it will help in your overall betterment to find a healthy way to maintain your stress levels.
If you are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol and other heart diseases, it is very important for you to apply these small but important changes in your everyday life. Cholesterol can be a slow-killer and immensely deteriorate the quality of your life. But, it can be managed with the aforementioned lifestyle changes. Along with these changes, make sure to consult with your doctor and start on the right course of treatment.