Here, the Mayo Clinic medical centre tells us everything we need to know about cholesterol and how to balance it for better health and a longer life.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
The Different Types Of Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, or "good" cholesterol, picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver where it’s needed.
How To Diagnose High Cholesterol
In most cases, high cholesterol is a silent problem. It typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. Many people don’t even realize they have high cholesterol until they suffer from a heart attack or stroke. That’s why routine cholesterol screening is important. If you’re age 20 years or older, ask your GP for a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels. It’s a simple test that may save your life.
The Risk Factors
Eating saturated fat and trans fats can raise your cholesterol level. Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will also increase your cholesterol too.
Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
Lack of Exercise
Exercise helps boost your body's HDL, or "good," cholesterol while increasing the size of the particles that make up your LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, which makes it less harmful.
Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking might also lower your level of HDL, or "good," cholesterol.
Because your body's chemistry changes as you age, your risk of high cholesterol rises. For instance, as you age, your liver becomes less able to remove LDL cholesterol.
High blood sugar contributes to higher levels of dangerous cholesterol called very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
If the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary arteries) are affected, you might have chest pain (angina) and other symptoms of coronary artery disease.
If plaques tear or rupture, a blood clot can form at the plaque-rupture site — blocking the flow of blood or breaking free and plugging an artery downstream. If blood flow to part of your heart stops, you'll have a heart attack.
Similar to a heart attack, a stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to part of your brain.
Best Ways To Manage Your Cholesterol
Reducing saturated fats - Saturated fats – found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products – raise your cholesterol. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol.
Eliminate trans fats - Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil," are often used in margarines, cakes, biscuits, muffins etc. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids - Omega-3 fatty acids don't affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart-healthy benefits, including reducing blood pressure. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds.
Increase soluble fibre - Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fibre is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.
Add whey protein - Whey protein, which is found in dairy products, may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement, lowers both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, as well as blood pressure.
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