Cholesterol is both good and bad. At normal levels, it is an essential substance for the body. However, if blood levels get too high, it becomes a silent danger that puts people at risk of heart attack. Cholesterol is present in all cells of the body and performs important natural functions when it comes to digesting food, producing hormones and generating vitamin D. The body produces it, but the people also consume it in food. It has the appearance of wax and grease.
There are two types of cholesterol:
- low density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol
- high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol.
A few facts about cholesterol:
Cholesterol is an essential substance that the body produces but that people also consume in food. Risk factors for high cholesterol include family history and modifiable lifestyle choices of diet and exercise. High cholesterol usually causes no symptoms.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an oil-based substance. It does not mix with blood, which is water-based. It travels through the body in lipoproteins.
Two types of lipoproteins transport cholesterol:
– low density lipoprotein (LDL): The cholesterol that moves this way is unhealthy or “bad” cholesterol.
– High Density Lipoprotein (HDL): Cholesterol found in HDL is called “good” cholesterol.
Cholesterol has four main functions, without which we could not survive.
- contribute to the structure of cell walls
- constitute digestive bile acids in the intestine
- allow the body to produce vitamin D
- Allow the body to manufacture certain hormones
- liver or kidney disease
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- pregnancy and other conditions that increase female hormone levels
- an underactive thyroid gland
- drugs that raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, such as progestins, anabolic steroids and corticosteroids.
- barley and whole grains
- eggplant and okra
- vegetable oil
- fruits (mainly apples, grapes, strawberries and citrus fruits)
- soy and soy foods
- fatty fish (especially salmon, tuna and sardines)
- foods rich in fiber.
- red meat
- high-fat dairy products
- hydrogenated oils
- bakery products
- A value between 239 and 200 mg/dL is considered as the upper limit.
- A rate of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.
- LDL cholesterol should be below 129 mg/dL.
- 130-100 mg/dL is a high limit level.
- 160-130 mg/dL is high.
- 190 mg/dL or more is considered very high.
Causes of high cholesterol
Hypercholesterolemia is an important risk factor for coronary heart disease and a cause of heart attack. Cholesterol buildup is part of the process of narrowing of the arteries, called atherosclerosis. In atherosclerosis, plaques form and lead to restriction of blood flow.
Reducing fat intake in the diet helps manage cholesterol levels. In particular, it is useful to limit foods that contain:
– Cholesterol: It is present in foods of animal origin, meat and cheese.
– Saturated fats: They are found in certain meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, fried foods and processed foods.
– Trans fats: They are present in some fried and processed foods.
– Being overweight or obese can also cause an increase in LDL levels in the blood. Genetic factors can contribute to high cholesterol. People with the inherited condition of familial hypercholesterolemia have very high LDL levels.
Other conditions can cause high cholesterol, including:
Symptoms of high cholesterol
A person with high cholesterol often shows no signs or symptom, but routine screening and regular blood tests can help detect high levels. A person who doesn’t get tested can have a heart attack without warning because they didn’t know they had high cholesterol. Regular testing can help reduce this risk.
Cholesterol in food
11 foods that actively lower cholesterol levels:
Adding these foods to a balanced diet can help control cholesterol.
Foods that are bad for cholesterol levels. These include
Cholesterol levels and result ranges
At adults, a total cholesterol level of less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered healthy.
A rate of 93 at 130 mg/dL is acceptable for people without medical conditions, but may be of concern for people with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease.
HDL should be stay high. The optimal HDL level is 60 mg/dL or more.
A level lower than 40 mg/dL may be a major risk factor for heart disease.
A rate between 41 mg/dL and 59 mg/dL is considered as lower limit.
Prevention of hypercholesterolemia
People who want to lower their cholesterol levels or keep them at a healthy level can make four major lifestyle decisions.
- eat a heart-healthy diet
- exercise regularly
- avoid smoking
- achieve and maintain a healthy weight
These actions will nt reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack.
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