These days a number of people suffer from cardiovascular diseases such as heart diseases or stroke; the major reason found behind every heart problem is High cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in the blood can actually be serious whereas high blood cholesterol itself would not cause any symptoms so people remain quite unaware when their high cholesterol level gets high. It’s been known that about 71 million American people have high cholesterol level from which hardly 1 out of 3 adults has the condition under control.
If I have to define cholesterol, then in simple words I would say it is a waxy or a fat like substance that is found in all cells of the body. Cholesterol is a need of our body to make hormones, vitamin D and substances that let us digest foods. It can be found in the foods that we usually eat. Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream and is carried in small packages known as lipoproteins. These small packages are largely made up of fat i.e. lipid on inside and proteins on outside. The two kinds of lipoproteins that carry the cholesterol throughout the body are given below. It is important that one maintain healthy levels of both:
- LDL or Low density lipoprotein– Sometimes known as bad cholesterol. The high LDL cholesterol may lead to build up of cholesterol in our arteries. The higher is the LDL level in blood, the more is the chance of getting heart diseases.
- HDL or High density lipoprotein– Sometimes known as good cholesterol. HDL is responsible to carry cholesterol from other body parts back to the liver. The liver tends to remove cholesterol from the body. The higher the HDL cholesterol level, lower is the chance of developing any heart diseases.
Another type of lipid that comes from the fat in the food is Triglycerides. The energy that comes from the food if does not get used up immediately gets converted into triglycerides and transports to the fat cells for storage. In this way it provides us with an important source of stored energy. Also most of the triglycerides are stored as a fat, and the low levels are found in the blood. Raised level of blood triglycerides along with high LDL may enhance the risk of heart diseases especially in that case if you already suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure.
What causes high cholesterol?
There could be certain factors which may contribute to you having high cholesterol level. Given below are some:
- Eating a diet rich in saturated fats may increase cholesterol level
- Being physically inactive or lack of exercise
- Being obese or having a body mass index of 30 or more
- Consuming liquor more than the recommended daily amount can increase the level of triglycerides in the blood
- Those who smoke
- The cholesterol level starts rising with an increase in age and can get affected by gender. A man younger than 55, could have high cholesterol than any woman. On the other hand if you are a woman over 55 and past the menopause, then your cholesterol level may slightly increase
Genes also plays a major factor in development of high cholesterol; so it may be caused by a condition that may run in the family called hypercholesterolaemia (FH). Uncontrolled diabetes, certain kidney or liver diseases are some other conditions which may cause the level of cholesterol or triglycerides to be high.
Treatment for high cholesterol
Now in order to get rid of high cholesterol, what utmost important is to follow healthy lifestyle? Proper exercising and eating a healthy balanced diet are the first line of defence against the high cholesterol. If you get successful in doing this, then the cholesterol level will remain in control. But if the cholesterol level still gets high, then doctor may prescribe some medications. The common medications include
- Statins– The choices are: Atorvastatin, Fluvastatin, Lovastatin and Pravastatin
- Bile-acid-binding resins- The medications Cholestyramine (Prevalite), Colesevelam (Welchol) and Colestipol (Colestid)
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors- The medication Ezetimibe (Zetia) helps to reduce blood cholesterol by limiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Zetia can also be used in combination with statin drugs.
- Combination cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin- The combination drug ezetimibe-simvastatin (Vytorin) is effective to decrease both absorption of dietary cholesterol in the small intestine and production of cholesterol in the liver.
How to get rid of high cholesterol?
Diet to be followed should be low in saturated fats and low in fat overall. One must cut down food items like biscuits, cakes, pastries, red meat and butter because they tend to be quite high in saturated fats.
Foods that must be added as part of daily routine and to keep cholesterol level in check are mentioned below:
- Avocados– They are found to contain a substantial amount of good fats and fibre that largely helps to boost good cholesterol and lower bad one.
- Barley– It is a great food item known to lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides level. As per the study, the cholesterol lowering effect is caused due to beta glucan that is a type of fibre present in barley. Further it has shown to reduce cholesterol level ranging from 4-10% depending on how much barley one consumes.
- Brown rice– Brown rice is an excellent food for health. The nutrients present are: B vitamins, selenium, phytonutrients and magnesium. Having a cup of brown rice may provide about 14% of daily recommended value for fibre. High fibre is good to lower blood sugar and controls cholesterol.
- Broccoli- This is another food item which is good and have cholesterol lowering properties. Try to have steamed broccoli in place of raw broccoli to lower cholesterol level.
- Cinnamon– Half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day could reduce blood sugar, triglycerides and bad cholesterol. You can have it by adding in to your green tea or use it in food to add some flavours.
- Cluster beans– Being rich in dietary fibre, the food is good in lowering cholesterol levels.
- Fenugreek seeds– If you consume fenugreek seeds on regular basis, then you could definitely see some improvement in LDL or triglyceride level in the blood. Also fenugreek seeds have shown to control the blood sugar level in people suffering from diabetes.
- Fatty fish– Salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and proteins. As per the scientific evidence, consuming fish rich in fatty acids helps to reduce triglyceride level by 25-30 percent, further it increases HDL level and also reduces the risk of heart problems. As recommended by AHA, eat two servings of fatty fish every week to get its maximum health benefits.
- Green tea– Green tea contains catechin polyphenols which are good for heart health. Those who drink green tea daily are able to lower their total and LDL cholesterol and has no effects on HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It’s a drink of zero calories when taken without sugar, so is quite good for people who watch their weight.
Apart from eating healthy food, you must do proper exercise to remain fit and to lose some weight. Excess weight too contributes to high cholesterol, so losing 5 to 10 pounds can greatly help to lower total cholesterol level.
So make sure that you quit smoking, stop drinking alcohol and always follow heart healthy lifestyle to prevent high cholesterol and to live a disease free life ever.