Cholesterol is a compound steroid in the body which plays a vital role in the body functions. It is a white crystalline substance (C27H45OH) found in various fats, blood, bile, and brain and nerve tissues. Cholesterol is a precursor to steroid hormones and consists of cell membrane. It is synthesized by the liver and is carried by the proteins in the blood.
Cholesterol, also commonly called as lipid, when combined to proteins is known as lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins:
- LDL-Low Density Lipoprotein: It is a class of lipoprotein which is responsible for transporting cholesterol to extrahepatic tissues i.e., it transports cholesterol from liver to various parts of the body. The increased level of cholesterol can thicken the walls of arteries (atherosclerosis) and lead to strokes or myocardial infarctions. Thus, LDL is known as bad or harmful cholesterol.
- HDL-High Density Lipoprotein: It is other type of lipoprotein which picks up the excess cholesterol from the blood to the liver, where it’s broken down. The increased level of HDL can lower bad cholesterol. Thus, HDL is known as good cholesterol.
The increased level of lipids in the blood, also known as hyperlipidemia can affect the health. The higher or lower levels of cholesterol may develop arterial disease and can lead to various other serious health conditions. The LDL and HDL level of cholesterol can be measured through blood tests which measures as follows:
Total Cholesterol (mg/dL)
- <200: Normal level of cholesterol
- 200-239: Borderline high
- >240: High.
Causes of High Cholesterol
There are various causes of high cholesterol that can lead to critical heart problems. They are:
- Unhealthy Diet- Intake of food consisting of high dietary cholesterol or saturated fat can increase the levels of cholesterol.
- High Blood Pressure or Diabetes- Hypertension can also be the root cause.
- Smoking- Accrolein is a compound found in cigarettes which destructs the flow of HDL to the liver, leading to atherosclerosis.
- Familial Cholesterolemia (FH) – It is an inherent condition, which leads to various heart problems due to increased levels of cholesterol despite healthy diet.
- Stroke or Heart disease- A family history of having a stroke or heart disease increases the chance to have high cholesterol.
The cholesterol may develop in the artery wall, obstructing the blood flow to various parts of the body. There is a possibility of blood clotting in other parts of the body.
Different Ways to Reduce LDL Cholesterol
The different ways to manage cholesterol in the body by lowering the LDL cholesterol are:
- Statins- The consumption of statin reduces the cholesterol level by 50%. Statins stop an enzyme that controls the rate at which the body produces cholesterol. It consists of various drugs like Crestor, Lipitor etc. However, there may be side effects like increased enzymes in the liver and muscle inflammation.
- Ezetimibe- Ezetimibe helps in reducing the cholesterol absorbed by the body. It can be combined with statins to reduce LDL cholesterol significantly. It helps in reducing cholesterol levels by 18-25%.
- Red Yeast Rice- The red yeast rice is a fungus found in rice that reduces the LDL cholesterol up to a certain extent. It is generally used as a dietary supplement.
- Bile Acid Resins- Bile acid resins bind with cholesterol containing bile in the intestines and are diminished through stool from the body. They lower LDL cholesterol by 15-30%.
- Fibrates- The intake of fibrates lowers triglycerides by 25-40% and increase the levels of HDL cholesterol by 10-30%. However, the side effects include headache and stomach problems.
- Psyllium- Psyllium husks are a supplement of soluble fiber and are also used as laxatives. They play a vital role in reducing LDL cholesterol levels significantly.
- Niacin- It is a type of vitamin B that reduces the LDL cholesterol and increases HDL cholesterol in the body. However, higher dosages of niacin increase the risk of liver problems.
- Plant Sterol Supplements- Plant sterol supplements are natural sterol that helps in reducing the LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk of critical heart disorders. Plant sterols used in food products are extracted from soybean and tall-pine tree oils.
Natural Ways to Reduce LDL Cholesterol
The higher levels of LDL cholesterol can be lowered with the help of various natural remedial ways. They are:
- Reducing the intake of substances that increases the risk of high levels of LDL Cholesterol:The food substances that increase the levels of LDL in the body and must be avoided are:
- Trans Fats- It is a partial hydrogenated fat that increases the bad cholesterol and reduces the good cholesterol in the body. It is found in foods which contain animal fat or dairy products. Even the deep fried foods, packaged foods like cookies, chips etc. and the foods that are frosted contain a lot of fat.
- Dietary Cholesterol- Dietary cholesterol, as the name suggests is the cholesterol found in food. It is highly found in meat, animal organs like liver, poultry, eggs, fish and various dairy products including butter, cream and cheese.
- Saturated Fats- Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. It is highly found in foods like fatty cuts of meat, poultry with skin etc. It is also found in various oils like vegetable oil, coconut oil, palm oil and fat dairy products.
- Increasing the Intake of Healthy Substances in the Diet Like:The diet should consist of some of the healthy components in order to minimize the high levels of LDL in the body. These include:
- Omega-3 Fatty acids- It is essential to include omega-3 in the diet as it fights against heart disease. It is found in fishes like salmon, trout, halibut, herring etc. and plant sources like walnuts, canola and soybean oils and flax seeds.
- Soluble Fiber- It lowers the cholesterol level significantly. It helps in reducing the risks of heart diseases and is good for overall health. The sources of soluble fiber are oats, beans, barley, yams, potatoes etc. Various fruits like berries, oranges, apples, pears etc. are also the sources of soluble fiber. Vegetables like beets, carrots, okra etc. are high sources of soluble fiber.
- Protein-rich foods- Protein rich foods help in maintaining insulin level in the body reducing the high levels of LDL cholesterol. It is found in lentils, beans like soy beans, red beans etc., nuts and seeds.
- Weight-Loss to Control Cholesterol: Weight loss is a vital tool to lower the LDL cholesterol in the body. It reduces the risks of high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, diabetes, strokes etc. One should always keep a check on their weight and reduce the excess weight from their bodies.
- Consume Alcohol Moderately: Moderate intake of alcohol helps in increasing HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. However, it doesn’t emphasize on consuming alcohol to those who don’t already drink. However, excess alcohol consumption can lead to various heart problems.
How To Prevent Cholesterol Build Up?
The primary step to prevent cholesterol buildup is to maintain a healthy life style. Some points to keep in mind to prevent cholesterol are:
- Healthy diet- The diet should be low in fat. Eating fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals in good amounts and avoiding food that contains saturated food helps in maintaining lower levels of LDL.
- Avoid smoking- Smoking should be avoided to maintain the normal functioning of the liver.
- Exercises- Regular exercises may lead to fit and healthy body. It helps in maintaining the levels of cholesterol in the body. Moderate exercises can help in increasing the HDL levels in the body. 30 minutes of exercises everyday can help in maintaining a fit body. Moreover, some physical activity at short intervals daily e.g. taking a brisk walk in the breaks may help.
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the risks of critical heart disorders due to increased levels of LDL cholesterol. There should be a balance between the HDL and LDL cholesterol to maintain fitness. Education and consciousness towards healthy living help in lowering the chances of high cholesterol.