Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is carried through the blood by particles called lipoproteins. Cholesterol helps build the cell membrane that gives structure and function to the cells. It also makes hormones, vitamin D, and other substances that help in digestion, like bile.
There are two kinds of cholesterol – good and bad. Good cholesterol, also called HDL or high-density lipoprotein, actually helps to clear cholesterol from the body. It carries cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver, which removes it from the body. LDL or low-density lipoprotein, or the bad cholesterol, builds up plaque in the artery walls, narrowing them down and sometimes even blocking them.
Our cells themselves prepare all the cholesterol our body needs. When we consume extra cholesterol from dietary sources, it does not fall into the useful category. Excess cholesterol is said to be a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, though a causal connection has not been proven. However, it does lead to other issues such as affecting some areas and functions of the brain, forming crystals or stones in the gallbladder, etc. Apart from unhealthy eating habits, high cholesterol is also caused by smoking and lack of physical activity. Some people are also genetically predisposed to having high cholesterol. In some cases, certain medicines or medical conditions can increase cholesterol levels.
Since high cholesterol has no symptoms of its own but obesity and tiredness may indicate high cholesterol levels. Hence, it is important to take the initiative to get tested for it. It is measured by a blood test, and how often you get it done depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. For children, it is recommended that they get the test every 5 years. For young adults as well, that is the recommended time gap. Men between the ages of 45 and 65 and women between 55 and 65 should get it done every one or two years.
If the test results show high levels of cholesterol in your body, it is time to take precautions and remedies. Here are some ways to lower LDL levels in your system:
- Making dietary changes is the biggest step that can be taken in the direction of managing cholesterol. Try to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fat. Some examples include butter and ghee, milk chocolate, cheese, fatty cuts of meat, junk food, cakes and biscuits, coconut oil, and palm oil.
- Regular exercise can lower cholesterol levels by helping you lose excess weight which contributes to high cholesterol.
- Another lifestyle change you can make is to quit smoking. Smoking accelerates the process of accumulation of plaque in the arteries.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are said to lower triglyceride levels in the body. They are found in avocados and fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna. Other medications that fall in this category are fibrates and niacin.
- Some medications are prescribed to lower cholesterol. Statins block an enzyme in the liver that makes cholesterol. However, they are given only to those at high risk of heart disease because they need to be taken for life. A low daily dose of aspirin may also be given to prevent blood clots from forming.
Cholesterol is definitely one of those things that the health conscious do not want to get too friendly with. It is not something that is required to be an important part of a healthy diet even if it has some uses of its own, because the body produces enough cholesterol to meet its needs. Thus, we can freely cut down on its intake because an excess of it only causes more harm than good. Visit Apollo Diagnostics if you want to get your cholesterol levels tested. Book an appointment today, or choose to avail the Home Collection Service.