Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like oily substance that is found in the cells of our body. Other than what our body produces, some amount of cholesterol is also found in the food we consume.
Our body makes enough of cholesterol to produce cell membrane, hormones, vitamin D and Bile acid that helps in the digestion.
Due to its oil base, cholesterol doesn’t mix with the blood but is carried around in the body by lipoprotein.
Lipoproteins are basically of two types:
– High-density lipoprotein (HDL) which carries “good” cholesterol.
– Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which carries “bad” cholesterol.
A balanced level of both the types is very important for a healthy body as an imbalance in the same increase the risk of heart attack.
Good cholesterol, which is carried by HDL, lowers down the risk of heart diseases. It helps in removing excess cholesterol from the body by carrying it to the liver, where it is broken down and is not added up in your bloodstream. Higher is your HDL, better it is.
Whereas, higher levels of Bad cholesterol (carried by LDL) in the body increase the risk of heart strokes and heart diseases as when there is too much of cholesterol in your body it builds up a layer around the arteries causing atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease. Thus, the arteries become narrow which slows down the process of blood flow in the body and sometimes even block it. Blood, which carries oxygen, when blocked can be very dangerous.
The term ‘high cholesterol’ is used when LDL is high in our body and HDL is low i.e., bad cholesterol level is high and good cholesterol level is low. There are no symptoms of detecting high cholesterol as such and that is the reason that many people are unaware of their risk of heart diseases. So it is very important to have your cholesterol level checked every once in a 5 year and be on the safer side.
To achieve high HDL or reduce LDL, there are certain ways that include medication and a bit change in lifestyle. Though medication is an easy way out, balance in cholesterol level is long lasting if achieved through other healthy means. These include:
1) Exercise or Yoga:
Fitness is must at all times. Exercises like biking, swimming, aerobics, yoga will not only helps in maintaining the good cholesterol level but also in raising it.
2) Lose weight:
Overweight or obese people are at a higher risk of heart diseases. Abdominal fat is generally associated with lower level of good cholesterol. Reducing weight can help in raising HDL and reducing the risk of heart diseases.
3) Avoid smoking at all cost:
Quitting smoking can be very helpful in optimizing HDL in your bloodstream as metabolism start functioning normally in the body.
4) Consume more of Omega 3 Fatty acid:
Fatty fish, chia seeds, egg yolks, these are some of the food items rich in omega 3 fatty acid which increases the level of HDL.
Drinking in moderate can be beneficial for lowering down LDL, in particular, the red wine because of its polyphenol antioxidants. And if not the wine, grape juice can also provide the same sort of benefits.
6) Olive oil:
It is a good source of mono-saturated fat which is good fat necessary for the body and helps in reducing LDL level. Though more than recommended can be bad.
7) Consume less sugar:
A high carbohydrate diet such as sugar, white bread, carbonated drinks, etc., is bad for the HDL and may increase the risk of heart strokes.
8) Vitamin rich food:
High level of antioxidant in your diet will automatically lead to high level of HDL. Blueberries, dark chocolate, kidney beans, pecans are very significant for healthy levels of both: HDL and LDL.
The optimum level of cholesterol:
LDL cholesterol less than 100mg/dl is considered to be optimal and when 160mg/dl and above is considered as high. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, if less than 40mg/dl, can be very risky for the life. Any number above 60mg/dl is considered protective against heart diseases.