Cholesterol has become synonymous with obesity, sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits. While cholesterol has become a buzzword in our conversation, not many are aware of what it is and the various ways in which it can be kept in check.
Cholesterol is a very important substance that is present in almost all body tissues. It is a wax-like substance that plays an important role in building healthy cells in the body. There are two kinds of cholesterols- LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and HDL (high-density lipoproteins). Out of these two, LDL is the harmful or bad cholesterol that gets deposited in the linings of the blood vessels. When the arteries get clogged with cholesterol, they cause coronary artery disease and other kinds of heart complications. There is also an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
What is HDL and LDL?
HDL and LDL refer to lipoproteins which are a combination of fat and proteins. HDL and LDL serve different functions in the body. A brief overview of these lipoproteins is mentioned below.
- LDL- It is made in the liver and carried to different parts of the body. Their main function is the maintenance of cell membranes and the creation of steroid hormones.
- HDL- It picks up cholesterol from different parts of the body and brings it to the liver. These are known as “good” cholesterol and are not associated with heart conditions or diseases.
Treatment for high cholesterol usually revolves around making healthy lifestyle choices, diet and medication. Lifestyle choices include proper weight management, getting enough exercise, and avoiding foods with unhealthy fats.
Controlling cholesterol through diet
One of the most important aspects of controlling cholesterol is diet. Mentioned below are some guidelines that people with high cholesterol can follow in order to reduce their levels of bad cholesterol.
- Eat healthy fats- Certain types of fats such as saturated fats, trans fats and sugars should be avoided by people with high levels of cholesterol. Saturated fats are the number one reason for the rise in LDL level. It is found in chocolate, certain kinds of meats, dairy products, baked foods, deep-fried items, and processed foods. Trans fats are also harmful as they increase the level of LDL while at the same time lowering the HDL count. It is found in hydrogenated oils and other kinds of fatty foods such as french fries, all kinds of crispy crackers and margarine among others. Healthier fats are found in lean meats, nuts, and unsaturated oils.
- Eat a lot of soluble fibers- Soluble fibers are effective in stopping the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract which can result in lower levels of LDL. Some of the various foods that contain soluble fibers are whole grains like oats, fruits like bananas, oranges, and pears, and legumes like kidney beans, lentils, lima beans and chickpeas among others.
- Include fruits and vegetables- Fruits and vegetables contain compounds known as plant-stanols or sterols which work like soluble fibers and help in reducing cholesterol in the body.
- Consume omega-3 fatty acids- Omega-3 fatty acids don’t reduce the amount of LDL but they boost the HDL levels. Fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Limit salt consumption- Reducing the amount of salt consumed lowers the blood pressure and thus reduces the risk of heart diseases. It, however, has no direct effect on the amount of cholesterol in the body. The amount of salt consumed should never exceed 2300 mg or 1 teaspoon per day.
- Stop drinking alcohol- People with high cholesterol should severely limit or stop consumption of alcohol. Alcohol packs a lot of calories which lowers the HDL level and increases LDL in the body.
Controlling cholesterol is all about awareness and making the right choices. Additionally, a doctor and dietitian should be consulted to bring cholesterol in check. At mfine, we have the top doctors and dietitians from India who can guide you through a personalized healthcare program. Download the mfine app today and begin online consultation at your convenience.