Cholesterol: What You Need to Know
Disclaimer: The information contained herein are for educational purposes only and are not intended to offer personal medical advice. Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Cholesterol has always had a bad reputation. Blame it on its well-known link to certain diseases. This fat-like substance, however, is not inherently bad especially when present at normal levels in the body. In fact, it performs several vital functions such as aiding in hormone production, digestion, and conversion of sunlight into vitamin D among others.
Most (about 80%) of the cholesterol that the body needs is produced in the liver, but certain foods also supply some amount. Dietary cholesterol sources are mainly animal-based foods such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
When does cholesterol become a threat?
While cholesterol is considered important in the body, very high levels in the blood can spell trouble and lead to cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. The risk of getting these conditions depends not only on the amount of cholesterol but also the type of cholesterol in the blood.
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol). In general, too much of the bad type and less of the good increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases.
What causes high cholesterol?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that individuals with certain health conditions (such as Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity), poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and are smokers are likely to develop high levels of cholesterol.
High cholesterol can also run in the family. Thus, having a family history of high cholesterol makes you more likely to have high cholesterol as well. In this case, it is recommended for you to get your cholesterol levels checked more often than people who do not have a family history of this condition.
A family history of high cholesterol combined with unhealthy lifestyle choices can increase your risk of high cholesterol even more.
How to improve cholesterol levels?
While high cholesterol can be inherited, it is often a result of controllable risk factors in the majority of the population. Lifestyle changes and sometimes medication can help improve blood cholesterol levels.
- Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are found primarily in animal products (such as cheese, fatty meats, and dairy products) while trans fats can be found in fried foods and many commercial products, such as cookies, crackers, and other snacks.
- Eat foods naturally high in fiber and unsaturated fats. Foods rich in fiber include oats, fruits, beans, lentils, and vegetables. Unsaturated fat sources, on the other hand, include avocado, vegetable oils like olive oil, and nuts.
- Get regular physical activity of at least 30 minutes per day. Look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs and doing household chores.
- Quit smoking if you are a smoker. If you currently don’t smoke, don’t think of starting at all.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one.
For some people, lifestyle changes alone are not enough to lower cholesterol. In this case, medicines are prescribed by doctors to help improve blood cholesterol levels. There are several types of cholesterol medicines available, including statins. Talk to your health care provider about which one is right for you. Even while taking medicines to lower cholesterol, lifestyle changes should still be continued to achieve a more favorable health outcome.
We at Trinity hope that this health information will help you in your wellness and fitness journey. In summary, when it comes to cholesterol, always remember to do the following:
- Check your cholesterol levels.
- Change your diet and lifestyle.
- Control your cholesterol, with help from your doctor if needed.