What is cholesterol?
associate cholesterol with fatty food, but almost 2/3 of your cholesterol is made by your liver. The rest comes from food, such as meat, egg yolks and dairy products. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, Vitamin D, and bile to help you digest food. However, too much cholesterol in your blood can form a plaque that sticks to the walls of your arteries increasing your risk of getting heart diseases.
“Good” and “bad” cholesterol; the facts
Cholesterol is carried in the blood attached to proteins called lipoproteins. There are two main forms: LDL [low density lipoprotein] and HDL [high density lipoprotein].
“Bad” Cholesterol: your body needs a small amount of cholesterol. But many people have too much, especially LDL called the “bad” cholesterol because high levels build up plaque in your arteries, leading to heart disease. This can happen if you eat too much saturated fat and trans fats found mainly in animal food.
“Good” Cholesterol: or HDL helps clear LDL the “bad” cholesterol from your blood, preventing it from building up inside the arteries. With HDL, higher numbers are better because it protects you from heart disease. Eating healthy fats, such as olive oil, may help boost your “good” cholesterol.
What increases your risk?
Cholesterol comes from two sources — the body and food — and either one can contribute to high cholesterol. Several factors can make you more likely to develop high cholesterol:
- Your genes: partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. Some people inherit genes that trigger too much cholesterol production. High cholesterol can run in families.
- A diet: high in saturated fats and cholesterol raises your “bad” cholesterol level.
- Being overweight: tends to raise your LDL level and lower your HDL level.
- Lack of physical activity: can lead to weight gain, which can raise your LDL level.
- Smoking: lowers your “good” cholesterol.
- Age: as you get older your cholesterol level tends to rise.
- Certain medications: including steroids and certain some blood pressure medicines can raise your LDL level.
- Medical conditions: such as chronic kidney disease and diabetes can cause a higher LDL level.
- Race: certain races such as African Americans have higher HDL and LDL cholesterol levels than whites.
How can you know if you have high cholesterol?
Although high cholesterol causes damage deep within your body, there are usually no signs or symptoms. The good news is high cholesterol is simple to detect with a blood test and there are many ways to bring it down.
Simple steps to lower your cholesterol?
There are two main ways to lower your cholesterol, a change in your lifestyle & medication.
A Healthy lifestyle
A change in your lifestyle offers a powerful way to fight high cholesterol and include mainly:
- Eat a healthy diet: start eating more good fats instead of bad fats. This means limiting saturated fats found in some meats, full-fat dairy products, baked goods butter, chocolate and trans fats found in deep fried food and processed foods. Limit carbohydrates, especially sugar. Instead, eat more unsaturated fats, which are found in avocado, nuts and vegetable oils like olive oil. Try to eat more food naturally high in fiber, such as oatmeal and beans. Also boost your omega-3s with salmon, tuna, and sardines.
- Stay at a healthy weight. you can boost your HDL level by losing weight, especially your belly fat.
- Exercise: just 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week can lower your “bad” and raise your “good” cholesterol levels.
- Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoking to raise your “good” cholesterol.
- Manage your stress: research has shown that chronic stress can sometimes raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
Consult your doctor if changes in your lifestyle do not lower your cholesterol levels enough. While you are taking medicines to lower your cholesterol, you should continue with the lifestyle changes.