Cholesterol: What you need to know

How diet and lifestyle modifications help reduce it

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is present in every cell in our body. Cholesterol is a component of cell membranes and furnishes the molecules for the synthesis of pro vitamin D, adrenocortical hormones like different type steroids, sex hormones, and bile salts. Our body cannot function normally without this lipid compound.

What is the cause of high cholesterol?

These include diet and family history. Obesity or diseases such as diabetes, gall bladder stones, nephrotic syndrome and cirrhosis can also contribute to a high cholesterol level.

There are two major types of cholesterol. When we talk about total cholesterol, we have LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol. One way to remember that is “L” is for lousy; we want it lower. And then we have the good cholesterol, which is the HDL cholesterol. “H” is for healthy; we want it higher. Another consideration in managing cholesterol is triglycerides, which are another form of fat found in the blood.

How to reduce cholesterol in the Indian diet

Triglycerides are also important. They are also contained in the plaque buildup that leads to heart disease and they’re very strongly related with the development of heart disease. According to the most recent guidelines of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), a desirable total cholesterol level is one that is below 200.

Total cholesterol levels between 200 and 239 are considered borderline high, and levels above 240 are considered high. The goal is to have LDL cholesterol levels less than 100mg/dL. For HDL cholesterol, the higher the better, greater than 40 mg/dL for men and 50mg/dL for women and triglyceride levels should be less than 150 mg/dL.

The first step is understanding where the cholesterol comes from. Cholesterol comes from two sources. There is the cholesterol that you eat in food and there is also the cholesterol in your body. Our liver produces enough cholesterol for our body. So, when we think about methods to lower cholesterol, we have to think about reducing it in the diet, and, in some situations, we need to reduce the amount that our body makes.

There are many dietary steps an individual can take to manage their cholesterol. These include limiting fat from the diet, particularly saturated fats and trans fats, limiting cholesterol-rich foods, and boosting fiber. But results from dietary changes can be mixed. And many people can control their cholesterol by changing their lifestyle.

Increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking are all changes that can help someone lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. And physicians agree that a heart-healthy lifestyle benefits everyone.

Butter, cheese, cream, prawns, egg yolk, kidney, liver, red meat, brain, biscuits, cakes, chocolates and pastries.

Which are the foods to be taken even with high cholesterol levels?

Egg white, fish, all unsaturated vegetables oils, skim milk, all vegetables, all fruits, whole meal bread, oats, cereals and pulses.

Top heart healthy foods

Egg yolk contains cholesterol but egg white contains mainly protein. Egg yolk contains 1.33gm of cholesterol per 100 gm. The egg yolk is a source of vitamin A, B vitamins, calcium, phosphorous, lecithin and iron. Iron of yolk is easily digested and assimilated in the body. Egg white is made up of protein known as egg albumin, which is of high biological value. Egg white is also a good source of riboflavin. Egg yolk is best avoided by heart patients.

Does any food help to reduce the high cholesterol levels?

Turmeric, cinnamon and fenugreek, onions, garlic and Bengal gram dhal are believed to lower serum cholesterol levels but this is controversial. Oats, wheat bran, flax seed, citrus fruits and beans are great for cleaning out cholesterol.

Text courtesy: By Mumtaz Khalid Ismail