Cholesterol is a type of fat synthesized by the human body and obtained from certain food items.
It is vital for good health, but excessive levels of cholesterol in the blood can cause various health disorders.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is carried around in the human body by a protein called lipoprotein.
Different types of lipoprotein are beneficial or harmful to health.
The two main types of lipoprotein are the High-density lipoprotein (HDL) and the Low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
High-density lipoprotein helps in removing excess cholesterol from the blood vessels through the liver.
The liver breaks down the cholesterol for easy removal and hence it reduces the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
This is the reason why HDL is considered as good cholesterol.
People with high blood triglycerides, usually have low levels of HDL in their blood.
Also, genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, smoking, and obesity can lower HDL cholesterol.
Women generally have higher levels of HDL than men of the same age.
Low-density lipoprotein moves the cholesterol from the liver to the cells.
But, a high level of LDL in the blood forms fatty deposits in the arteries increasing the risk of heart diseases. Hence, it is considered bad cholesterol.
After menopause, women usually get higher levels of LDL cholesterol, which increases the risk for heart diseases.
Sources of Cholesterol
About 25% of cholesterol in the human body comes from various dietary sources.
The remaining 75% is synthesized by the liver.
Cholesterol levels can be maintained in the body by avoiding saturated and trans fats.
A diet high in saturated fat leads to the accumulation of bad cholesterol with time.
Various major contributors of cholesterol are liver, meat products, veal, egg, cheese, sardines, shrimp, squid, and yogurt.
Fried food items like deep-fried meat and cheese products consist of high levels of cholesterol and should be avoided.
This list includes processed meats, such as sausages, bacon and hot dogs.
Benefits of taking Foods that are rich in Cholesterol
Cholesterol plays many important bodily functions such as the production of hormones, vitamin D, and digestive substances.
60 mg/dL or higher amount of HDL can help protect the body from various heart diseases.
Side Effects of Cholesterol
High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood narrows and hardens the artery walls.
This restricts the blood flow to the heart, resulting in heart failure.
Painful diseases such as angina are caused as the accumulated cholesterol plaque bursts, forming blood clots, which blocks the flow of blood to the heart.
This can be avoided by rigorous exercise and following a healthy diet.
Cholesterol can also lead to heart diseases like coronary microvascular disease, which can cause fatigue, breathlessness, dizziness, memory loss, headaches, loss of energy and chest pain.
High levels of cholesterol cause stroke due to the excess cholesterol circulating in the blood.
This is because plaque build-up in the arteries slows or blocks the flow of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood in the body and brain.
High cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis, which causes erectile dysfunction in men.
For people with high cholesterol levels, a change in lifestyle is the first step.
A diet of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains is recommended.
To keep cholesterol levels in check, 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercises, cycling and swimming is important on a regular basis.
A check on blood sugar should also be done as high blood sugar can weaken the lining of the arteries which raises LDL levels and lowers HDL levels.
Quitting smoking and drinking is also important, especially if the person is addicted.
In case, even after maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn’t control the cholesterol levels, medication can be taken based on a doctor’s prescription.