Cholesterol and healthy living
If you ask a family member or friend what cholesterol is, chances are they’ll not have a clue what it actually is or where it comes from except that it’s “bad” for the body. This, believe it or not, is a common misconception among the general public. The wonderful architecture and working mechanism of the human body is such that there is nothing amazingly good or lethally bad for it. Everything functions well for the body if it is in a desired amount. Same is the case with cholesterol. Its excess or lack thereof, is something the body can ill-afford.
Demystifying the Chemical Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a yellowish-white waxy substance that in reality is a crucial part of the cell membrane, separating outside elements from what’s inside the cell itself. These molecules behave like checking points that oversee the passage of foreign elements that pass through the cell membrane. Cholesterol also acts as a vital building block to certain hormones, testosterone, and estrogen. Without cholesterol, the system wouldn’t be able to function quite as smoothly as it should.
The Real Culprits: Lipoproteins
Lipoproteins are the molecules that transfer cholesterol molecules to different parts of the body. They're of three types: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), High-density lipoprotein (HDL) and Triglycerides. Since these are responsible for all the good and harm, LDL is generally known as bad cholesterol while HDL is called good cholesterol. Triglycerides are a type of fat occurring in the bloodstream and fat tissues. For a healthy body, the levels of these cholesterol molecules needs to be balanced in the body.
Understanding Cholesterol Levels
There is a huge difference between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, where understanding the two independently, is imperative. The purpose of a cholesterol test is so that a doctor can review a patient’s lipid profile – reveals the levels of good and bad cholesterol. By analyzing and understanding your cholesterol numbers, you can aim to set ideal targets to achieve holistic health. While we can get individual data for ideal range of LDL, HDL & Triglycerides levels in our body, here we'll just understand how to interpret our total cholesterol level numbers.
What Cholesterol Numbers Say about Your Health?
There are two common units used to measure cholesterol levels in our body. These are: milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood and millimoles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood. While these are the general units used in most of the countries, it may vary for every country. Ideally, you should ask your doctor to interpret your cholesterol levels and what it means for your health.
Below 200 mg/dL – It's desirable and that's what is needed to be healthy.
Between 200-239 mg/dL – It's being on the edge.
240 mg/dL and above – It's a high range.
As you can see, you must aim to keep your cholesterol levels in the below 200mg/dL range.
The first step towards making a complete 360 degree lifestyle change is to get a check-up done to determine just how bad one’s LDL values are. The next step is to follow a management plan to help you lower HDL cholesterol, while upping the good cholesterol. With keenness and a tolerance that only comes through an unwavering mindset, you’ll be healthy in no time.
A diet that is free from saturated fat (teeming within processed meat/packaged food products) is just what your body needs. Saturated fats are now the enemy. Foods like red/packaged meat, canned foods, baked goods, white flour edibles, and full-fat products are a strict no-no in a heart-healthy diet plan.
Don’t be sullen about giving up your favorite greasy, fatty foods/snacks since the replacements are delicious and versatile enough to make meals scrumptious and filling.
You can feast on the following foods:
- Lean meat (chicken breast/fish/turkey and the likes)
- Legumes and beans
- Olive oil/canola oil/fish oil (discard oils that aren’t heart-healthy like corn oil)
- Non-fat dairy
- Green/black tea (use skimmed milk/ add stevia for sweetness)
- Pomegranates/oranges/prunes/cranberries (including other berry varieties)/apples/avocado
- Green vegetables (especially spinach/kale/Brussels sprouts/fibrous food)
- Whole grains (quinoa/oatmeal/barley/cracked wheat/brown rice/oat bran)
- Nuts (with skin, especially almonds)
- Ground psyllium seeds
- Peanut butter (in moderation)
- Dark chocolate (in moderation)
The liver produces 80 percent of the body’s cholesterol where only a mere 20 percent comes from one’s diet. If you have ceaselessly been working towards reducing cholesterol by a healthy diet with no results, what you need is medication intervention. These cholesterol-lowering drugs are for those who overshoot the bad cholesterol value chart.
Statin – It significantly lowers LDL or bad cholesterol.
Gemfibrozil (e.g. Ausgem, Lopid, Jezil, Lipigem) and fenofibrate (Lipidil) – Lowers cholesterol levels. I
Fish Oil- It reduces triglycerides.
Ezetimibe (brand name Ezetrol) – Lowers cholesterol levels and famous as cholesterol absorption inhibitor.
Cholestyramine & Colestipol – Bile-acid binding medicines help in lowering total cholesterol levels.
Nicotinic acid - Lowers LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
Lifestyle Changes – Proactive Approach
Altering one’s diet will not be enough to see a dramatic change in overall health and physique, therefore some form of activity and control over certain habits is crucial.
Yoga/aerobics/brisk walking (dedicate 30-60 minutes of the day to any one activity or shuffle between these options).
Alcohol consumption must be limited to once/twice a month (one serving). Avoid completely if you're a heavy drinker.
Beef can be eaten only once a month.
Quit smoking. Period.
When you take the initiative to turn your life around, the results will not only leave you happy and healthy, but living a wholesome, longer life. Get loved ones and friends to join you in your fight against heart-related issues – support from others is always motivating. Regular checkups are something you cannot avoid; how you take your doctor’s advice will ultimately determine the outcome of your condition.
Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 16, 2012