You’ve probably heard a lot about the harmful effects of having high cholesterol levels. Well, its not all fuss. We need cholesterol for normal functioning. Matter of fact, our bodies make most of the cholesterol we need, and the rest we get from our diet. Despite the usefulness in our bodies, uncontrolled levels have a negative impact on our health. Lucky, with lifestyle modification, you can attain healthy levels of cholesterol and this will boost your health tremendously.
What is cholesterol
It is a type of fat in your body that is found every cell and in blood. Cholesterol plays several important roles in our bodies.For one, It helps to keep your cells strong and integral. Secondly its used to make of hormones enzymes that ensure your body is working well. Thirdly, its essential in helping your body cells signal and communicate with each other. It is essential for life.Only when in dis regulated amounts do we see the harmful effects on our bodies.
There are two sources of cholesterol for our bodies.The first source is de novo, where the body makes its own cholesterol and the second is from exogenous sources, that is from our diet. Some of the foods that are rich in cholesterol include egg yolks ,shrimp, fatty red meat , cheese , shellfish , butter , cream , organ meats (liver , kidneys ), poultry, pork.
Here is an interesting fact, eggs are the only dietary source of cholesterol that is low in saturated fat but also very nutritious and economical. So go ahead and enjoy your eggs, in moderation of course.
In excess, cholesterol deposits along our blood vessels causing them to harden, become narrow and lose their integrity. This in turn can lead heart disease, strokes or even kidney disease.
In addition to the above, in excess, it causes blood to be more viscous and limits its free flow. This can lead to development of blood clots that can cause a blockage in delivery of blood to vital organs
With blood vessels affected, high blood pressure and hypertension can easily result and this causes an unhealthy viscous cycle to the body.
The harmful effects of high fat and cholesterol in our bodies is largely a cumulative effect of our diet habits and how physically active we are. The importance of having a healthy eating habit and keeping physically fit cannot be over emphasized.
The above picture demonstrates how a blood vessel, the artery in particular, was initially and then with time after excess fats and cholesterol starts to accumulate and finally when it is completely blocked.
Have your cholesterol level checked as often as recommended by your doctor.
A cholesterol test, also known as lipid profile, measures different types of fats. This includes:
VLDL; this is the type that when in excess, it is considered harmful or “bad cholesterol” it is the kind that is found in obesity or overweight. This is what your doctor or nutritionist will want to lower if found on the high side.
LDL This is the in between cholesterol. More on the bad cholesterol end than the good end.
HDL; this is the ‘good’ cholesterol and is what proper diet and physical activity helps maximize on.
Recommended levels of cholesterol in the body are as follows.
Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl
Low-density lipoprotein should be less than 100 mg/dl
HDL cholesterol should be above 40 mg/dl
Steps to take to keep a healthy cholesterol level
Reduce your intake of oil and fat intake especially processed foods. Cook with minimal fat and use healthier oils.
Keep fit by being physically active. This burns up the excess fat cells and builds muscle.
Keep hydrated by drinking as much water as you can per day.
Increase your intake of vegetables, legumes fruits and whole grain cereals because they contain more dietary fiber and less fat.