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Cholesterol Management Types , Causes, Symptoms , and Tips to Lower Cholesterol Levels

  • September 19, 2022
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As India celebrates cholesterol awareness month this September, we need to look at why widespread awareness is essential to prevent cholesterol-related health issues that are rising at an alarming pace in the country. According to a recent study conducted to evaluate the cholesterol levels in urban and rural India, the tests showed a clear indicator of the need to educate the masses on cholesterol management.

The studies indicated that cases of high cholesterol are present in 25-30% of urban Indian citizens and 15-20% of the rural population. Although this number is slightly lower than in high-income countries, we need to curb this health risk before this becomes a nationwide concern.

Did you know?

Having increased cholesterol levels can cause heart and circulatory diseases such as vascular dementia, stroke, and heart attack.

Understanding Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in our blood, and every one of us has cholesterol. It is naturally produced in the liver, and every cell in our body uses it. This waxy substance in the blood helps our body create cell membranes, many hormones, and also vitamin D. Some of the cholesterol found in our body also comes from the food we eat.

Cholesterol can be a cause for concern when it is found over the required limit in our bloodstream. As we live in the post-pandemic era, there have been numerous instances of deaths caused by heart attacks, and this is mainly due to unregulated cholesterol levels.

What is High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol leads to increased fatty deposits in our blood vessels, and over time these deposits can grow larger and block your blood flow. When the blood flow is blocked in the arteries by these fatty deposits, it leads to various heart diseases. Also, vascular dementia is caused when there is reduced blood flow to the brain, leading to the damage of brain cells. This is again caused by high cholesterol levels in the blood. Most often, these fatty deposits can break away and form a clot, causing a sudden stroke or heart attack.

Types of Cholesterol

There are 3 main types of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol), high-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol), and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL cholesterol).

LDL Cholesterol – Often referred to as bad cholesterol, LDL cholesterol acts as a carrier, and it delivers cholesterol to your cells. But, if the amount of LDL circulating in your blood becomes high, then it can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. This is why it is commonly referred to as bad cholesterol.

HDL Cholesterol – Also referred to as good cholesterol, HDL cholesterol helps to return the LDL cholesterol from your arteries to your liver, and eventually, this can be removed from the body. By lowering the excess plaque from increasing on the walls of the arteries, HDL cholesterol aids in cholesterol management and prevents heart diseases.

VLDL Cholesterol – Produced by the liver, VLDL cholesterol also acts as a carrier and transports triglycerides in your blood. Our blood either uses triglycerides for energy or stores them. This type of cholesterol can also lead to a build-up of plaque in the arteries if found in excess amounts in the blood.

Causes of High Cholesterol

Now that we know what the 3 main types of cholesterol are, we need to look at the causes of high cholesterol.

High cholesterol acts as a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease, and it can also cause heart attacks. Atherosclerosis is a heart disease that is caused by the narrowing of arteries. The formation of plaques can cause a restriction in blood flow, and this can eventually turn life-threatening as the blockage increases and the blood flow decreases.

To reduce cholesterol, we need to cut down the intake of fat in our diet and manage cholesterol levels. Following are the food sources that can lead to high cholesterol.

Cholesterol – Most of this is found in animal foods, cheese, and all types of meat

Saturated Fat – Found in deep-fried and processed food, baked goods, and dairy products

Trans Fats – Mostly found in fried and processed food

There are certain health conditions that can lead to an increase in cholesterol levels, and these are – diabetes, underactive thyroid gland, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), liver or kidney-related diseases, drugs such as anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, progestins, and more

Symptoms

An individual suffering from high cholesterol levels shows no signs or symptoms related to this condition. However, conducting a thorough health check-up and taking blood tests can help identify high levels of cholesterol in the blood.

How to Lower Cholesterol Levels

Efficient cholesterol management requires you to make healthy lifestyle choices, and this can also include making changes to your dietary routine. By undergoing a lipid test and observing the test results, you can focus on lowering your cholesterol levels for each type of cholesterol.

Lowering LDL Cholesterol

Consuming foods rich in soluble fibre helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. Foods like Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, and oats contain a good amount of soluble fibre. This soluble fibre helps mop-up LDL cholesterol and ensures cholesterol management. Additionally, following a Mediterranean diet is also an ideal diet plan to lower LDL cholesterol. A high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, whole grains, and fish is recommended.

Regular endurance exercises can help move the LDL cholesterol to your liver, which is where it will be removed from your body. 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise in a week can significantly help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.

Lowering VLDL Cholesterol

This is influenced by the triglyceride levels in your body. There are various proven ways to limit VLDL cholesterol levels, and these include:

Eating Mindfully – Stop taking in more calories than your body actually needs for normal functioning. Mindful eating happens when you chew your food thoroughly, eat slowly, think about how it makes you feel post-eating, and learn when to stop eating when you’re feeling full.

Lowering Alcohol Intake – In most cases, even small amounts of alcohol can raise triglyceride levels. It is advisable that you minimize or completely avoid the intake of alcohol and refrain from binge drinking.

Omega-3 Fats – Increasing your intake of foods rich in Omega-3 fats is recommended to lower VLDL cholesterol levels. These foods can lower your triglyceride levels, regulate blood pressure, and prevent the risk of clotting. Oily fish, like freshwater salmon, is a good source of Omega-3 fats. The consumption of chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, and hemp seeds can help in increasing the Omega-3 fat levels in your body.

Increasing HDL cholesterol

Indulge in regular exercise, and you can definitely boost your HDL cholesterol levels. Were you aware of the fact that exercise is linked to an increase in HDL cholesterol levels? Well, yes, it is true, and you need to get plenty of it to stay healthy. However, high-intensity cardio exercises are the ones you should aim for and not the low-intensity exercises to boost your HDL cholesterol levels.

Avoiding harmful lifestyle habits like smoking will set you on the right path toward living a long and healthy life. Smoking is known to reduce HDL cholesterol levels, and this can be detrimental to your overall well-being.

In the end, what matters is how you choose to live your life. Always remember, the greatest investment you will ever make is by investing in good health. Educate those around you and help yourself by making the right choices in your diet and lifestyle to keep all forms of illness in check.