Ten to twenty years down the lane, cholesterol wasn’t something that people were aware of per se. Only when their health indicated complications would their doctor warn them of rising cholesterol levels, usually by stating risks of high blood pressure or a stroke. A lot of people attribute bad cholesterol to the cooking oil they use, which explains why cooking oil brands are advertising about being “cholesterol-free.” So does this term actually exist? Is all cholesterol bad?
What Is Cholesterol? Diffrent Types Of Cholesterol!
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that our body produces naturally. It is found in the bloodstream and the body’s cells. Cholesterol is produced by the body naturally in the amount it needs and helps to keep the body healthy. Cholesterol contributes to the body’s health by making new cells, hormones, and substances to aid in digesting foods. Cholesterol comes from two sources. Naturally, it is produced by the liver.
Externally, cholesterol in the body comes from foods like meat, poultry, and dairy products. Dietary cholesterol is also found in oils like palm oil, overconsumption of which causes the liver to produce more cholesterol than the body needs. The problem, thus, lies when it exceeds the necessary amount and begins to hamper your body’s regular function.
Think of your blood vessels and a drain. The effluents passing through it are your blood. Excessive cholesterol in your blood is like a clogged drain. Cholesterol can join with fats and other substances in the blood to build up in the inner walls of your arteries, causing them to be clogged and narrow, and thereby reducing the blood flow.
Types of Cholesterol
If you get a cholesterol test done, the results will show 4 numbers, that are:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): The “good” kind of cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein (HDL). It helps in removing the “bad” LDL cholesterol from the arteries and back to the liver. HDL also plays an important role in the removal of cholesterol from plaque in the arteries. However, HDL cholesterol eliminates only one-third to one-fourth of LDL cholesterol.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): LDL cholesterol is what should be concerning to you. Often called the “bad” kind, too much LDL cholesterol in the blood combines with other substances in the arteries to build up in their inner walls, creating a thick, hard substance called plaque. In worse cases, the buildup of plaque may rupture to form a blood clot or a piece may break off and travel in the bloodstream. This is what causes a heart attack or stroke. So the lower the LDL, the better.
- Triglycerides: These are a type of fat in the blood that can increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
How to test your cholesterol level?
High cholesterol usually has no symptoms. But the good part is, you can always get it checked easily. A simple blood test by your healthcare professional would determine the cholesterol levels in the body. Depending on what your doctor recommends, your lipoprotein profile test may be “fasting” or “non-fasting”. With minor discomfort, a blood test is conducted. Additional tests may be conducted if necessary.
After the sample is taken and the same is analyzed in a laboratory, the levels of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides are evaluated. In a non-fasting profile test, only the values for total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol will be evaluated. The test report will show cholesterol level in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL).
Talking about the determination of your cardiovascular risk, the doctor will discuss the test results in context with your age, family history, and sex. Other risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes will also be taken into account.
If this risk remains uncertain and treatment options are unclear, your doctor will examine other factors and/or conduct coronary artery calcium (CAC) measurements to adjudge how the risk is and what can be done to prevent any greater harm.
How often should you check your cholesterol?
People do not listen unless an alarm is raised. This applies to health too. Unless they spot signs of discomfort or their doctor advises them to monitor their cholesterol levels, they do not pay heed to what is going into their body and how it will impact their LDL.
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults who are 20 years old or above should get their cholesterol checked every four to six years as long as their risk remains low, including other traditional risk factors. After age 40, your health care professional will also recommend using an equation to calculate cholesterol and the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Further, people with cardiovascular diseases or other underlying conditions are at elevated risk and need to test their cholesterol and other risk factors more often.
How to keep your Cholesterol level healthy?
Cholesterol is obviously related to your lifestyle, so some changes in your lifestyle apart from medications can help you in keeping your cholesterol level healthy. Focus on consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk products, whole-grain foods, skinless poultry, and lean meats. Red meat and pork with loins should be preferred as they have less fat. Fishes in their non-fried form can be relished every week. Unsalted nuts, seeds, and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils like canola and sunflower oil can also be had.
You must, however, avoid foods with a lot of sodium or salt and sugar-sweetened beverages, fatty and processed meats like salami and sausages, baked goods made with trans fat. Look for products stating hydrogenated oils in the ingredients panel and avoid having them. Saturated oils like palm oil are a strict no-no.
Even if you use fried food, use a rack to drain off fat. Opt for grilling instead of frying. Regulate your diet to serve smaller portions of higher-calorie dishes. Over and above everything, a proper fitness regime and regular exercises also help in improving heart health.
With medical technology advancements, testing and improving cholesterol levels in the body has become a lot easier. All you need is to take charge of your health and coordinate with your doctor apart from diet and physical activity.
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