Specifically, cholesterol is a type of fat that is present in every animal cell. It is essential for several bodily metabolic processes, including the production of hormones, bile, and vitamin D. However, consuming meals with a lot of cholesterol is not necessary. The body produces cholesterol quite fine on its own; you don’t need to help it.
In other words, the chemical cholesterol, which is sticky and resembles fat, is present in all of your body’s cells. Your body needs cholesterol to make insulin, vitamin D, and compounds that help in food digestion. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Cholesterol can also be found in foods made from animals, such as cheese, meat, and egg yolks. Plaque can be created when excessively high blood cholesterol levels interact with other blood components. Plaque forms on the inner walls of your arteries. The medical word for this build-up of plaque is atherosclerosis. As a result, your coronary arteries could thin or even end up blocked, which could lead to coronary artery disease.
Importance of cholesterol
The majority of cells in the body produce cholesterol, as does the liver. Lipoproteins, which are little molecules, are transported through the bloodstream. Due to the fact that the body uses a small amount of blood cholesterol for these purposes:
1. Create cell membrane structures
2. create hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone, and adrenal hormones
3. Improve the efficiency of your metabolism; for instance, your body needs cholesterol to produce vitamin D.
4. produce bile acids, which help the body break down fat and absorb nutrients.
How the body transports cholesterol?
White, waxy, and insoluble, cholesterol is a substance. The following are two significant blood transport mechanisms that transfer blood throughout the body:
1. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol transports the majority of the cholesterol that is given to cells. It is referred to as “bad” cholesterol because high blood levels of it might clog your arteries.
2. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol. It helps remove excess cholesterol from cells, particularly those in the arteries.
HDL and LDL and How They Function in Your Body?
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are also referred to as “good” and “bad” cholesterol, respectively. Both of these lipoprotein subtypes transport cholesterol throughout the circulatory system.
The AHA claims that because HDL moves LDL cholesterol from the arteries to the liver, it is classified as “good” cholesterol. It might be broken down and removed from the body. When there is an excessive amount of LDL moving through the blood, it can eventually build up as plaque on the walls of your arteries, earning it the nickname “bad” cholesterol. The medical word for this is atherosclerosis. The AHA claims that over time, this leads the arteries to tighten, raising the risk of peripheral artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Triglycerides, the most common type of fat in your body, can also result in fatty deposits in your arteries. When paired with high LDL or low HDL cholesterol levels, it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the AHA.
Optimal values of blood cholesterol
Because of this, high blood cholesterol is a significant health issue in Australia. Over 5 mmol/l of blood cholesterol is present in about half of all adult Australians. If no additional risk factors are present, health officials advise limiting cholesterol levels to 5.5 mmol per liter. The target for LDL levels would be fewer than 2 mmol/l. If there are additional cardiovascular risk factors present, such as smoking, high blood pressure, or from before the cardiovascular (heart) disease.
Why Do Some People Have High Cholesterol More Frequently Than Others?
The reasons why some people have high cholesterol levels while others do are not as clear-cut as they would first appear. For example, the AHA notes that people who are overweight are far more likely to have high cholesterol. It may also affect those who are thin.
Your cholesterol levels may be affected by the following factors:
Familial hypercholesterolemia, a condition that predisposes some people to have high levels of harmful cholesterol, may run in their families (FH). There are two types of FH: homozygous, which occurs when a person possesses two copies of the abdominal gene. One from each parent, as well as heterozygous, where a person receives the defective gene from both parents. More rarity and greater danger than heterozygous FH. High levels of LDL cholesterol are found in those who have FH. This kind of cholesterol can’t be recycled as well, which raises their risk of atherosclerosis, which commonly starts earlier in life. The AHA estimates that 1 in 200 people have the FH genetic mutation. These persons have a higher risk of developing heart disease. It is advised that you get tested for FH if you have a family condition or who has a heart attack when they were young.
Heart disease and strokes are significantly and scientifically proven to be caused by smoking. Despite the fact that it does not directly contribute to high cholesterol. That risk increases if you also have high LDL cholesterol levels. Smoking lowers HDL levels, according to the AHA. It assists in reducing or eliminating the advantageous effects of this type of cholesterol. If you give up smoking, your heart health will start to improve right away. A review of the research published in the journal Biomarker Research found that HDL levels rise virtually immediately in smokers who give up.
The best way to lower your LDL, according to the AHA, is to limit saturated fat to less than 6% of your daily calories and reduce the amount of trans fat you consume. When it comes to your nutrition, you should limit your intake of trans fat. Red meat, tropical oils, fried dishes, and full-fat dairy items must all be consumed in moderation. Pick whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fruits, vegetables, no tropical vegetable oils, and chicken instead of refined grains. According to the AHA, among the better cooking oils are canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, sunflower, vegetable oil, and other specialty oils. Dr. Gutierrez suggests, as a general rule, eating a diet high in whole, plant-based foods and low in saturated and animal fats.
What Do the Results of a Blood Test Mean?
The AHA recommends that all over the age of 20 get their total cholesterol evaluated every four to six years. As your overall chance of having a heart attack increases as you become older. Having your cholesterol examined more frequently may be suggested by your doctor.
The testing will reveal the following:
- Total blood cholesterol: This should be thought of as your final “score.” This number is derived, in accordance with the AHA, by adding your HDL and LDL values as well as 20% of your triglyceride level. Barbara Roberts, MD, clinical associate professor emerita of medicine at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and former director of the Women’s Cardiac Center at The Miriam Hospital, says that although official guidelines define a total cholesterol level below 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) as “desirable” and anything over 239 mg/dL as “high.” This number is less significant than it might first appear. The ratio of good to bad cholesterol, she explains, is very important.
- HDL : You would like this number to be higher given that a high HDL level is linked to good heart health. The Cleveland Clinic claims that HDL cholesterol levels of 60 mg/dL or higher are generally protective against heart disease. However, a level of less than 40 mg/dL appears to be neither protective nor safe.
- LDL : Less than 100 mg/dL is the optimal LDL level, however 129 mg/dL or below is also preferable. The Cleveland Clinic states that anything over 189 mg/dL is harmful, anything between 130 and 159 mg/dL is high, and anything between 160 and 189 mg/dL is very high.
- Triglycerides: Triglyceride levels vary by sex and age, according to the AHA. Risk factors for raised triglycerides include diabetes, being overweight or obese, being sedentary, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and consuming a diet high in sugar, processed foods, and saturated fat. A normal amount is less than 150 mg/dL, anything close to 200 mg/dL is possibly high, and anything above 200 mg/dL is high, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Your chance of developing cardiovascular disease is raised. A triglyceride level of 500 mg/dL or higher is considered dangerously high.
Tips to avoid High LDL:
If you and your doctor decide that lowering your cholesterol levels is necessary, your doctor might write you a prescription for a statin drug. 2019 guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend basing the choice to start taking statins on an estimation of your risk of stroke over a 10-year period. Gutierrez contends that these levels are simply one part of the picture, despite the fact that “the most recent recommendations suggest that in the condition of diabetes you should start medication when LDL is more than 70 mg/dL.”
The following are important tips to start making lifestyle changes:
- Diet recommendations to lower LDL
- Do not avoid all dairy products
- No need to stay away from seafood and eggs
- Lifestyle advice to lower cholesterol
- Medicine might be required
Let us discuss it one by one:
Diet recommendations to lower it
A healthy lifestyle is the most important thing you can do to lower your cholesterol. Make every effort to
1. Eat more whole grains, fresh produce, and fruits and veggies every day.
2. Choose low- or reduced-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and other dairy items, or sip on soy beverages with “added calcium.”
3. Select lean meat (beef that has been fat removed or is marked as “heart smart”).
4. Instead of fatty meats like sausage and salami, choose leaner sandwich meats like turkey breast or cooked lean chicken.
5. Eat fish at least twice a week, either fresh or canned.
6. Replace butter and dairy products with polyunsaturated margarine.
7. Include high-soluble fiber and good-fat foods like nuts, legumes, and seeds in your diet.
8. Limit yourself to twice a week for cheese and ice cream.
Another type of “storage” fat that is transported by blood lipoproteins is triglycerides. When this fat is present in high blood quantities, the risk of heart attack increases. Certain foods can change your blood triglyceride.
Do not avoid all dairy products
Some people believe that avoiding dairy products altogether is the safest course of action, however, this is inaccurate. Dairy products should be a regular part of your diet as they offer a number of essential elements, including calcium. Vegans can, however, also get calcium from a variety of other sources, including soy milk.
No need to stay away from seafood or eggs
You can consume some meals with a high cholesterol content in moderation as long as your diet as a whole has few saturated fats. For illustration:
1. Egg yolks: One yolk has 200–250 mg of cholesterol, which is almost the daily recommended limit (300 mg). However, reducing egg consumption is probably not necessary for healthy people with normal blood cholesterol levels.
2. Seafood – Although they do contain some cholesterol, prawns, and seafood are also high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fat. Seafood should not be shunned as food just because it contains cholesterol. However, avoid seafood that has been fried or battered.
Lifestyle advice to lower LDL
Your triglyceride and cholesterol levels may go down if you make some lifestyle changes. Several ideas are:
1. Give up consuming alcohol altogether or limit yourself to one or two drinks each day. Quit drinking too much. As a result, your triglyceride levels may decrease.
2. Give up smoking. Smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to damage arterial cells.
3. Consistent workout.
4. Exercise increases HDL levels while lowering triglyceride and LDL levels.
5. Reduce any excess body fat. Obesity may lead to higher blood triglyceride and LDL values.
6. Manage your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. High blood sugar levels are linked to atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Medicine might be required
For some people, dietary and lifestyle changes might not be enough. High blood cholesterol instances typically involve genetic reasons. Mutated genes that run-in families can result in high cholesterol; these genes are often unaffected by dietary or lifestyle modifications.
If you are at cardiovascular risk and your LDL cholesterol level does not reduce despite careful attention to nutrition, your doctor may prescribe medicines to lower your blood LDL levels. Since cell cholesterol levels remain normal, lowering blood cholesterol has little to no effect on most metabolic processes in cells. The most widely used medication to lower blood cholesterol, statins, can make some people feel pain in their muscles. Food and exercise are still important even if you are taking medication. Your doctor might also advise you to consult a cardiovascular disease specialist.