Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is the precursor of all steroid hormones, cholesterol esters, and bile acids, and is a component of the plasma membrane of cells. Total cholesterol consists of free cholesterol and cholesterol esters. Serum cholesterol is derived from the diet and is synthesized in the liver. Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) consist mostly of protein, are rich in cholesterol, and are derived from the breakdown of very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs). High-density lipoproteins (HDLs), the smallest particles, consist mostly of cholesterol, protein, and phospholipids, with only a small quantity of triglycerides. LDLs are a source of cholesterol for peripheral cells, such as the adrenal gland; HDLs transport cholesterol from peripheral cells back to the liver. LDLs and HDLs do no contribute to visible lipemia. Excess cholesterol is excreted via the bile, where it is esterified. Cholesterol measurements can provide supportive evidence in some diseases.
Cholesterol moves throughout the body carried by lipoproteins in the blood. These lipoproteins include:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is one of the two main lipoproteins. LDL is often called “the bad cholesterol.”
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the other main lipoprotein. HDL is often called “the good cholesterol.”
Very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) are particles in the blood that carry triglycerides.
Triglycerides are important because most of the fat in your body exists as triglycerides. These levels are often higher in people who have diabetes or who are obese.
Cholesterol is insoluble in the blood; it must be attached to certain protein complexes called lipoproteins in order to be transported through the bloodstream. Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) transport cholesterol from its site of synthesis in the liver to the various tissues and body cells, where it is separated from the lipoprotein and is used by the cell. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) may possibly transport excess or unused cholesterol from the tissues back to the liver, where it is broken down to bile acids and is then excreted.
Cholesterol attached to LDLs is primarily that which builds up in atherosclerotic deposits in the blood vessels. HDLs, on the other hand, may actually serve to retard or reduce atherosclerotic buildup.
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. If cholesterol levels are high, the condition is called hypercholesterolemia. If your cholesterol levels are low, the condition is called hypocholesterolemia. It is not common to have cholesterol levels that are too low, but it can happen.
Factors affecting cholesterol levels
A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:
Diet: Saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Try to reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in your diet. This will help lower your blood cholesterol level. Saturated and trans fat have the most impact on blood cholesterol.
Weight: In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase your triglycerides. Losing weight may help lower your triglyceride levels and raise your HDL.
Exercise: Regular exercise can lower total cholesterol levels. Exercise has the most effect on lowering triglycerides and raising HDL. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
Age and sex: As we get older, cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, women’s LDL levels tend to rise and HDL can drop.
Heredity: Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
Diet tips for Cholesterol :
limiting or avoiding the following “unhealthy” high-cholesterol foods, which are also high in saturated fat:
Whole milk, butter and full-fat yogurt and cheese are high in saturated fat. Cheese also tends to be high in sodium, and most Americans get too much sodium, too.
Steak, beef roast, ribs, pork chops and ground beef tend to have high saturated fat and cholesterol content.
You should limit processed meat in general because of its high sodium content and low nutrition. In fact, bacon, sausage and hot dogs are usually made from fatty cuts of beef or pork.
French fries, fried chicken with skin and other foods cooked in a deep fryer have a high amount of saturated fat and cholesterol from the oil they’re cooked in.
Baked goods and sweets
Cookies, cakes and doughnuts usually contain butter or shortening, making them high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
What to have
Changing what foods you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the armada of fats floating through your bloodstream. Adding foods that lower LDL, the harmful cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging atherosclerosis, is the best way to achieve a low cholesterol diet.
- Oats An easy first step to lowering your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber.Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber.
- Barley and other whole grains Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.
- Beans Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal.
- Eggplant and okra
- These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.
- Nuts Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.
- Vegetable oils Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL.
- Soy Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol.
- Fatty fish Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.