Cholesterol; What You Need to Know
Ways To Reduce High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy fatty substance made by the body in the liver and other cells. It is also found in several foods such as eggs, poultry and dairy products. When you take foods high in Trans and saturated fats, the liver produces more cholesterol. Cholesterol circulates in the blood where it combines with proteins to form lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are categorized into Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol and High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. LDL circulates cholesterol from the liver to body cells where it is used for cell functions. HDL carries cholesterol from the cells to the liver where it is broken down or excreted from the body as a waste product .
Ways To Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Excessive cholesterol in the blood can build up in the arteries thereby making it hard for the heart to pump blood efficiently. You can know the amount of cholesterol in your blood by taking a blood test. This test will enable your physician to determine the best approach to lower your risk. Too much of cholesterol in the body can increases your risk of serious health conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke or heart attack.
The Risk of High Cholesterol
There are several factors that can cause high cholesterol in the body. Some of these factors include genes, lack of exercise, consuming foods high in Trans and saturated fats, and being overweight. Regardless of the cause or source, high cholesterol poses danger to your health. It plays a critical role in the narrowing and hardening (atherosclerosis) of the arteries.
This in turn increases the risks of stroke and heart attack. When cholesterol clogs a coronary artery, it reduces the amount of oxygen and blood getting into the heart. Without sufficient oxygen, the heart becomes damaged and weak. If this clog breaks open, it can lead to a blood clot. When a blood clot blocks the coronary artery, you get a heart attack.
A cholesterol clog or blood clot can also reduce the amount of oxygen and blood going into your brain. When a blood clot completely blocks an artery feeding the brain with blood and oxygen, you will suffer a stroke. Most people don’t test their cholesterol levels.
This increases the risks of high cholesterol since this condition does not have symptoms. Additionally, you will not feel pain if you have high cholesterol. These factors make it less likely for you to seek treatment or take medicines that lower cholesterol.
Foods that Lower Cholesterol
You can overcome high cholesterol by eating a healthy balanced diet. Some of the foods that can help you lower cholesterol include high-fiber foods, oatmeal, fish, nuts and olive oil, among others. Oatmeal, apples, kidney beans, pears and prunes contain soluble fibers which reduce bad cholesterol in the body.
Soluble fibers reduce your LDL and total cholesterol by decreasing the amount of cholesterol absorbed into your bloodstream. Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which reduce the risk of developing blood clots. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce blood pressure.
Mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout, halibut and salmon have the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish should be grilled or baked to avoid adding unhealthy fats. Health experts recommend at least two servings of fish weekly. You can also get small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from canola oil and ground flaxseed.
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts) contain unsaturated fatty acids which keep the blood vessels healthy. These nuts reduce blood cholesterol hence decrease the chances of getting a heart attack. However, when taking nuts, ensure that they are not coated with sugar or salted. Excessive consumption of nuts can lead to weight gain. You should eat about 42.5 grams or 1.5 ounces of nuts daily. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants that reduce LDL cholesterol. Extra-virgin olive oil is the best because it is less processed thus has more antioxidants. You should take olive oil sparingly (about 23grams daily) because it is high in calories.
How to Lower Cholesterol
The first step in lowering cholesterol is maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. You should swap fatty foods for wholegrain cereals, fruits and vegetables. Other than changing your diet, you should make several lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol. Exercises play an important role in lowering cholesterol. A few minutes of physical activity can help in raising HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol. With regular exercises, you will also maintain a healthy weight and reduce the chances of getting clogged arteries.
For those who hate exercising or going to the gym, you can take a walk. A walk is easy and very healthy. Smoking can also increase cholesterol. You should quit smoking to lower the level of cholesterol in your body. Physicians also prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications for people who are more likely to suffer from heart disease. The benefits of these medications in lowering cholesterol should outweigh any side effects and risks.
The risks of high cholesterol are not instant. The damage can accumulate for several years and cause serious health conditions down the road.