Cholesterol is of two types: HDL or good cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol
High cholesterol has no visible symptoms, so screening regularly is important
You can control and prevent cholesterol with a healthy diet and regular exercise
Cholesterol is essentially a lipid. It is a waxy substance that courses through the blood in your body with the help of lipoproteins. While cholesterol has a bad reputation, it is needed by your body to create healthy cells, to produce certain hormones, to generate vitamin D, and even for efficient digestion of food.
However, the liver produces all the cholesterol that your body needs for these functions. When your diet also contributes to cholesterol levels, it can culminate in high cholesterol. This effect is typically associated with a diet comprising high trans fats, saturated fats and foods that have a significant cholesterol component. It is aggravated further by inactivity, excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking.
When levels aren’t managed, cholesterol lines your arteries causing plaque formation. Over time this can result in a stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, chronic kidney diseases and other illnesses. So, it’s important to make yourself aware of all aspects of this condition, from cholesterol types and high cholesterol symptoms, to treatment and prevention. Keep reading to learn more.
When it comes to cholesterol types, there are two that you should know of: LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.
LDL or Low-Density Lipoprotein is one of two cholesterol types. It is known as bad cholesterol because it takes cholesterol straight to your arteries. Cholesterol build-up in your arteries is referred to as cholesterol plaque. Not only does this increase blood pressure, but also puts you at risk of clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke. As cholesterol is closely linked to food, here are foods you should and shouldn’t eat for LDL cholesterol.
Foods that lower LDL cholesterol:
Foods that increase LDL cholesterol:
All three are rich in trans fats, a substance that is directly linked to higher LDL levels.
HDL or High-Density Lipoproteins are known as good cholesterol because they work towards undoing the damage caused by LDL or bad cholesterol. HDL cholesterol guides LDL cholesterol back to the liver from where it can be expelled from the body. Adequate HDL levels also prevent plaque from restricting arteries, thereby reducing your risk of strokes or heart attacks.
Foods that boost HDL cholesterol:
While it’s good to elevate HDL levels, simultaneously work on lowering LDL cholesterol levels. This will better your overall HDL to LDL ratio and benefit you immensely.
Additional Read: A Handy Low Cholesterol Diet Plan
Cholesterol symptoms don’t really exist. Cholesterol is a silent illness that can culminate into heart conditions and strokes in extreme cases, after it has had time to form plaque on arterial walls. Therefore, in the absence of high cholesterol symptoms, the best way to diagnose the condition is to get tested for it regularly, say once few years.
A simple blood test is used to diagnose cholesterol. It is often known as a cholesterol test or lipid profile, and gives the doctor an overview of your levels. Typically, it presents the following information:
You are usually asked to fast for around 12 hours before the cholesterol test. Once you visit the doctor or diagnostic clinic, a technician will draw blood from your arm and send it to a lab for testing. Thereafter, you will receive results in a day or so.
Primarily, cholesterol treatment focusses on making dietary and other lifestyle changes. A lifestyle that eliminates unhealthy habits, includes exercise and focuses on fresh, healthy foods goes a long way in controlling cholesterol. If you also require to lose weight, a doctor may make stricter recommendations, such as giving you a diet plan and exercise regime to follow. In some cases, doctors also prescribe a class of medicines known as statins to block the production of cholesterol.
To prevent high cholesterol, simply follow the principles of a healthy lifestyle.
Ensure that your diet primarily comprises fresh vegetables, leafy greens and fruits. Limit your intake of high-fat dairy products such as butter and cheese, high-sodium foods, as well as red meat, deep fried food and fast food owing to their high trans fat content. As far as possible eat fibre-rich foods in addition to those that lower LDL and promote HDL levels.
If your family has a history of high cholesterol, you’re at risk of being diagnosed with high cholesterol too. This also applies if you have diabetes or obesity. As there are no cholesterol symptoms to warn you, once you identify the risk factors contact a doctor and understand the best lifestyle for you.
Studies suggest that if you’re overweight, losing even 5–10% of your weight can make a significant difference to your cholesterol levels. Moreover, about 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week helps boost HDL levels in all, not just those who are obese. This makes it an excellent way to prevent high cholesterol.
Smoking affects your arteries significantly. One of the ways it makes you susceptible to cholesterol is that it roughens arterial walls. This makes it easier for cholesterol to cling to the walls, and in turn accelerates plaque formation. This is why one of the best things you can do to prevent cholesterol is to stop smoking.
As you now know, cholesterol symptoms are next to none. By the time it presents itself in the form of a heart attack or stroke, it poses a serious threat to your life. Therefore, if you’re over the age of 20 years, consult with a doctor and check your cholesterol levels regularly.
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