Have you check your cholesterol level regularly?
The cholesterol level of an individual is closely associated to the heart health. That’s why health professionals recommend to maintain a healthy range of cholesterol level.
There are two types of cholesterol such as the low-density lipoprotein or the “bad” cholesterol and the high-density lipoprotein or the “good” cholesterol.
In the United States, almost 73.5 million of adults are experiencing high level of LDL that put them at a double risk of developing heart disease.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance present in our body and flows through the bloodstream. A certain amount of cholesterol is needed by your body to function properly. Cholesterol along with lipoproteins flow throughout your body. However, the lipoproteins are soluble proteins that are responsible in transporting fats in your body.
The function of LDL or the bad cholesterol is to carry the cholesterol into your blood vessels and body tissues. If too much LDL is deposited in your body, there’s great possibility that the excess amount of cholesterol is deposited along the walls of the blood vessels. This condition can lead to stroke or heart attack.
On the other hand, the good cholesterol or the HDL works on transporting the cholesterol from the blood vessels and body tissues back to the liver where it is eliminated from your body. Thus, the main function of HDL is to protect you from the risk of developing heart disease.
What is the ideal level of cholesterol?
The ideal or healthy amount of total cholesterol is about 199 mg/dL or lower than that. If the level of your cholesterol is 240 mg/dL or more, then you should be careful because it is higher than the recommended amount and may cause adverse effect to your health. If the range is between 200 to 239 mg/dL, it is within the borderline.
For the LDL, it is recommended to maintain 100 mg/dL or lower than that and the higher level is 160 mg/dL or beyond. 130 to 159 mg/dL is within the borderline level that is tolerable.
It is recommended to have regular checkup of your cholesterol every 4 to 6 years when you reach the age of 20.
Best Ways to Lower Cholesterol
Once you are diagnosed of high cholesterol level, you should ensure to act immediately on how to reduce it. Your doctor may prescribe medication, but there are simple and natural ways to lower the cholesterol level.
– Lifestyle changes
Practicing a healthy lifestyle is the key to prevent the risk of developing health conditions. Lifestyle changes can help to lower the cholesterol level. Dr. Eugenia Gianos said that lifestyle and dietary changes can lower the cholesterol level by 20 percent, but may also vary on how the person practices it.
Usually, it takes about 3 to 6 months to lower the cholesterol level by doing regular exercise and healthy diet. But, the changes are noticeable shortly in men than women.
Included in the lifestyle changes is improving your diet as it plays significant role to lower the cholesterol level. This is possible by reducing intake of saturated fat and increasing the dietary fiber.
You should avoid consuming hyper processed foods that are harmful to your heart. Likewise, fatty foods can clog your artery that may lead to stroke and other heart problems.
With this you should avoid if not reduce intake of saturated fats and trans fats that that easily raise bad cholesterol and heart-damaging. Instead, you should increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids that can protect you from heart disease.
It does not necessarily mean to become a complete vegetarian to maintain the healthy range of cholesterol level. Consuming more fruits and vegetables as well as fiber rich foods. Plant foods are high in soluble fiber that is beneficial in lowering the bad cholesterol or LDL levels.
Plant proteins also help to lower the cholesterol level. That’s why you should include plant proteins and other products like soybeans, soymilk, and tofu. It is also recommended to eat whole grains to reduce both the LDL and total cholesterol level as well as support healthy heart.
Regular exercise is another natural way to lower the cholesterol level. Aside from weight loss benefits, you can also expect cardiovascular benefits through exercise. Aerobic exercise enhances the HDL level, thus protect you from heart disease.
Exercise along with healthy eating can help in lowering the cholesterol level. This means that to maintain the healthy level of cholesterol, an individual should avoid poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle.
The vertical lines represent 95 percent confidence intervals. Significance levels, after Bonferroni’s adjustment for the six pairwise comparisons, are indicated as follows: the asterisk denotes P<0.05 for the comparison with the control group, the dagger P<0.001 for the comparison with the control group, and the double dagger P<0.001 for the comparison with the exercise group. Source: nejm.org
Does lowering your cholesterol protect you from ever having a heart attack?
Cholesterol plays important part in our body to make hormones, digestive fluids, and Vitamin D. That’s why cholesterol itself is not bad because it helps the organs to function properly.
However, if the LDL is more than the normal level, then it can be a problem. This issue increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, as well as can cause severe damage to the arteries.
Lowering the cholesterol level in a way can protect you from the risk of heart attack. If there’s too much bad cholesterol in your body, most likely it will clog the arteries.
When the arteries hardened, you may experience atherosclerosis that prevents the blood to flow throughout the arteries. This puts pressure to your heart to push blood. Likewise, the plaque accumulated in the arteries can lead to heart disease.
When the coronary arteries are blocked by plaque, the flow of oxygen-rich blood towards the heart muscle is disrupted. This problem may cause angina that is a warning that you’re at risk of experiencing heart attack.
Therefore, to avoid heart attack you should ensure that your arteries are not blocked and the blood can flow freely throughout them.
What role does genetics play in determining cholesterol levels?
Studies showed that there are several factors that affects the cholesterol level and genetics is one of those. Most likely, if a close relative or member of the family experience high cholesterol level, there’s great possibility that you may also experience such health condition.
When high cholesterol level runs on your family, it is called as familial hypercholesterolemia. This is possible as the genes of the parents were passed to the children, thus the level of cholesterol in the blood also increases.
People having familial hypercholesterolemia are unable to regulate or control the cholesterol level in spite of lifestyle choices, diet, and exercise. Instead, they need to take medications.
To know if familial hypercholesterolemia runs in your family, a genetic testing can be done. This will identify the faulty genes. If the result of the test is positive, your doctor will recommend frequent lipid panels screenings. This is the best way to create a monitoring plan and rule out the best treatment.
Regardless of the factor that cause high cholesterol level, it’s important to manage it properly. You should consult your doctor immediately to avoid developing health complications.
To lower the cholesterol level, you should practice healthy lifestyle, good eating habits, perform regular exercise, avoid using substance, and take the medications prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Dietitian with around 5 years of experience in assessing the nutritional needs of patients, counselling individuals, communicating the appropriate nutritional information to other members of the health care team and implementing nutritional care plans by following all the standards.