What does cholesterol mean?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that is one of the types of fats that play a very important role in the body. Our body cells are consisted mainly from cholesterol. In fact, cholesterol contributes to the production of hormones, vitamins, bile acids and the elements that contribute to the digestion process.
Genes affect the amounts of cholesterol produced in the liver, while lifestyle controls cholesterol levels in the body, and despite its importance to the body at normal levels, its high amount may cause health problems specially “atherosclerosis”.
Cholesterol can be obtained from two main sources: the endogenous hepatic production and food there is many types of animal fats that are a source of cholesterol such as cheeses, egg yolks, chicken, beef and shrimp.
The worst saturated fats are found in full-fat dairy products, animal fats and many types of oils and chocolate, while trans fats are found in hydrogenated oils obtained from fried or baked fast foods which all can increase bad triglyceride and cholesterol and increase the risk of cardiac disorders.
There are 3 types of cholesterol:
- High density lipoprotein “HDL” which known as good cholesterol, it is a protein produced by the lever that can transport the cholesterol from the tissues to the liver. It performs a “clean-up” function. It can protect against atherosclerosis by many mechanisms as it contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant anticoagulant effects.
- Low density lipoprotein “LDL” which known as bad cholesterol, it is a protein produced by the lever that can transport the cholesterol from the liver to tissues which is the key ingredient for the development of an atherosclerotic plaque . About 60-70% of cholesterol in the body is carried as low-density lipoprotein.
- Very low lipoprotein “VLDL” : Triglyceride is the major high-energy compound for energy storage supplying 9Kcal/g of free fatty acid, triglyceride are carried by very low lipoprotein “VLDL”. Its high level value in the lipid profile can increase the risk of heart diseases, hypertension and atherosclerosis.
- Cholesterol help in building cell wall and its content.
- Production of hormones, including cortisol and sex hormones Like testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
- Production of bile acids that can help in food digestion.
- Vitamin D production, where cholesterol is converted in the body to vitamin D in the presence of sunlight, which is important in regulating the amounts of both calcium and phosphate in the body.
High cholesterol levels symptoms:
Symptoms of high blood cholesterol aren't noticeable by normal people, but regular blood tests can help in detection the high levels. persistently high levels can lead to many physical changes. If your cholesterol levels are high, it can restrict the blood flow to your legs .
A person who does not undergo testing may have a heart attack without warning, because they did not know that they had high cholesterol levels, Regular tests can help to reduce this risk.
Cholesterol related complications:
- High levels of harmful cholesterol in the blood lead to the possibility of blockage of blood vessels, as this fatty substance collects in the arteries from inside, and leads to serious problems such as heart problems, atherosclerosis, angina and chest pain.
- A blood clot can be formed, which can block blood flow, or the clot may block another artery. If the blood supply to the heart is stopped, it can lead to a heart attack, and if the blood supply to the brain is stopped, it can lead to a stroke.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Abnormalities in blood sugar levels.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Shortness of breath.
- numbness or coldness in your hands or legs.
- Lever diseases.
Diagnosing high cholesterol:
A blood test that measures the level of cholesterol in the blood usually shows:
- Total cholesterol level: normal values are lower than 200 mg/dl.
- Bad cholesterol level: normal values are lower than 129 mg/dl.
- Good cholesterol level: normal values are more than 60 mg/dl.
- Triglyceride level: normal values are lower than 150 mg/dl.
Your doctor will make a therapeutic plan according to your condition.
12 Factors that may increase the risk of high serum cholesterol and triglyceride:
- A family history of high triglycerides and cholesterol.
- Excessive drinking of alcohol.
- Eat plenty of foods rich in sugar and simple carbohydrates.
- Untreated diabetic patient.
- The presence of diseases of the kidneys and liver.
- Taking certain medications, such as: diuretics, hormones, or beta-blockers.
- Thyroid disease.
- Men are more likely to have high cholesterol levels than women.
Certain dietary and lifestyle changes may contribute to lowering and maintaining cholesterol and triglycerides within a normal levels, including:
- Reducing saturated fats found mainly in red meat and full-fat dairy products, which raise total cholesterol in the blood.
- You should get rid of trans fats which are containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil such as fried food, cakes and crackers.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids “Salmon, mackerel, walnuts and flaxseeds, which have benefits for heart health, including lowering blood pressure.
- Increasing soluble fiber, which reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the blood. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as beans, oats, apples, and pears.
- Doing exercises help raise the level of "good" cholesterol, and it is preferable to exercise for at least half an hour, 5 times a week.
- Quitting smoking reduces the level of bad cholesterol significantly.
- Over weight is very dangerous in terms of raising the levels of harmful cholesterol in the blood, so it is best to start losing weight by following a proper diet with exercise.
- Barley and other whole grains can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Nuts, such as peanuts, walnuts, and almonds, are very good for the heart and lead to a reduction in LDL, but only by 5%.
- Using Vegetable oils when cooking, instead of butter and ghee, you can use vegetable oils such as sunflower and canola to help lower LDL.
- Fruits rich in pectin: such as grapes, strawberries, apples and citrus fruits help reduce the level of harmful cholesterol, as pectin is a soluble fiber.
If your serum cholesterol remains high, consult your doctor.