Cholesterol is a Silent Killer; This is how to keep it in check.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a silent killer
Cholesterol is a Silent Killer

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance produced by your liver and the foods you consume. Cholesterol is technically not bad in your body because it serves as a building block for synthesizing various steroid hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids. Besides their structural role in providing stability and fluidity, cholesterol also plays a crucial role in regulating cell function. Cholesterol is present in the bloodstream as lipoproteins which are spherical waxy particles.

There are two types of cholesterol present in your body which are both important to maintain a healthy body function. There is the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.

The two are generally classified into good and bad cholesterol based on their characteristics. LDL is regarded as bad cholesterol because it makes up most of your body’s cholesterol and is mostly the type associated with health complications. The good cholesterol, HDL is regarded as good because it absorbs the bad cholesterol in the blood and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

How does it affect your body?

When the “bad” Cholesterol (LDL) builds up in your body, they form plaques in the walls of your arteries which narrows the optimal area needed for blood to circulate freely. This could lead to health problems such as a stroke or heart disease.

The LDL in your body is also able to combine with triglycerides (a type of fat) to cause some serious damage to your circulatory system. This often leads to a heart attack in most cases.

Diabetes is also another common health problem that goes hand in hand with higher levels of cholesterol. According to the American Heart Society, Diabetes lowers the levels of HDL which is the “good” kind of cholesterol while it increases the LDL bad cholesterol in your bloodstream. Other clinical studies conducted reveal that increased cholesterol levels lead to deterioration of glucose tolerance and that high total cholesterol (TC) to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) ratio can predict type 2 diabetes.

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Early Signs of High Cholesterol

High Blood pressure

Typically, high cholesterol doesn’t cause your body to show any symptoms and the only way to know if your cholesterol level is increasing is to go for a check-up. However, if you notice that your blood pressure is higher than it normally should then it could be an indication that your cholesterol level is high.

Chest Pain or Angina

Experiencing chest pain, also called Angina could be a possible indicator of high cholesterol. Not all chest pains you experience are angina, some may just be heartburn. however, if it is persistent then it could be an indicator of a higher cholesterol level.

Leg Pains

Experiencing pain in your legs when walking may be an indicator of abnormal levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream. The tingly feeling you get when you sit for a very long time and stand up suddenly is always normal because it may be pointing to a higher cholesterol level in your system.

What Can I do to lower my cholesterol level?

Putting your cholesterol in check would mean you would have to make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle. As a start, you should start exercising regularly and avoiding certain kinds of food.

1. Eat heart-healthy foods

The following changes to your diet will reduce cholesterol in your system and improve heart health:

  • Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats are commonly found in red meat and full-fat dairy products. They are also present in red meat. Your LDL “Bad Cholesterol” will reduce significantly if you cut down the intake of foods rich in saturated fats.
  • Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats are sometimes called partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and are used in products like margarine, baked cookies, crackers and cakes. If you are the type that love to eat too many pastries then you should also minimize it in order to cut down on your cholesterol level. The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils by Jan. 1, 2021.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty oils do not add to your cholesterol level however they benefit your heart health and help reduce high blood pressure. Foods rich in these essential oils include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds.
  • Increase soluble fibre. Taking in soluble fibres reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fibre is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.
  • Add whey protein. Whey protein, which is found in dairy products, may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure.

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2. Exercise on most days of the week and increase your physical activity

Engaging in an active lifestyle will improve your body’s cholesterol. A moderately intense workout will raise your body’s high-density lipoprotein (HDL), The “good” type of cholesterol.

Just 30 minutes of low-intensity workout for 5 days is highly recommended or alternatively, you can engage in an intense 20 minutes workout 3 times a week.

Cholesterol is a silent killer
  • Playing a favourite sport
  • Taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour
  • Riding your bike to work

To reduce the tendency of giving up easily, it is advisable to join a group of workout fanatics to stay motivated.