In this modern, fast-paced life, poor nutrition, and not moving enough, resulting in many people suffering from a very common affliction known as having high cholesterol. This can happen even to teenagers. High levels of bad cholesterol are responsible for many cardiovascular diseases that cause heart attacks and strokes. In North America, cardiovascular diseases claim more lives every year than cancer. Cholesterol has become the common enemy. But the truth is, we all need some cholesterol to help create new cells and keep us healthy. The problem isn’t cholesterol itself, but how much of it is in the bloodstream.
The challenge then is to have the right amount, and the right kind, of cholesterol to keep our bodies in balance and help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat or lipid that circulates in your blood. It helps make cell membranes, key hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and vitamin D and helps in the digestion and absorption of fats from foods.
There are two types of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called good cholesterol.
- LDL carries cholesterol in the blood, delivering it to cells. Too much LDL can lead to the creation of a harmful waxy, fat plaque that grows on the inside walls of arteries. This plaque increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
- HDL has the ability to carry excess cholesterol out of the arteries to the liver to be eliminated from the body.
What causes high cholesterol?
Unhealthy lifestyle and diet are often the causes of the problem. People mistakenly think that cholesterol is the substance that we absorb after eating foods that contain high cholesterol. This is not entirely accurate. The majority of cholesterol doesn’t come from foods, but is synthesized from saturated fats found in animal fat (such as pork or beef), and trans fats (a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation from repeatedly re-used vegetable oils for frying) found in processed foods, butter and fried foods. Genetics are also a cause.
High or low cholesterol depends on an individual’s condition, and family history. Other risk factors a doctor will consider are whether a person smokes or has high blood pressure when deciding if they should be tested or treated.
How to manage cholesterol –
To manage cholesterol, your doctor might recommend a statin. These drugs can help prevent cardiovascular diseases by entering the liver and preventing it from producing more LDL. This mechanism, however, might have a negative side effect on the liver’s function. After about three months of taking the drugs, the patient will be advised by their doctor to have a check-up to ensure the liver function remains normal. In addition, other side effects from the use of drugs might include muscle pain and an increased risk of diabetes.
For people with diabetes, does their condition worsen when taking the drugs? Research has shown that the effect of the medication to prevent cardiovascular disease works even better than on people without diabetes. Please consult with your doctor as to whether or not you should take medication.
What age is it best to take medication? One study has shown that if you are or over 75 and have never had any heart-related disease, such as high blood pressure, is not recommended to use medication. Older people with the lowest cholesterol levels actually have the highest risk of death.
People with high cholesterol levels should also pay attention to their diet. Cut greasy, saturated fats and trans fats foods. Instead, go for a diet that contains good fats found in seeds, nuts, avocado, vegetable oils, and fish.
In the past, there was a misconception that eating eggs could lead to an increase in cholesterol in the blood. Eggs contain a fair amount of cholesterol in the yolks, but they also contain good HDL. According to a recent study, one can consume up to seven eggs per week (one a day on average). Eggs should not be over eaten. It is best to add other foods to your diet that are high in HDL to help remove bad LDL.
An active lifestyle helps the body eliminate excess fat and makes you feel more energetic. Do at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise every week, and aim to achieve a heart rate of 60-70 per cent of your maximum heart rate. To know your maximum heart rate, take 220 minus your age. For example, a 60-year-old’s maximum heart rate would be 160.
These exercises will help eliminate excess fat, increase good HDL and lower the bad cholesterol in the blood. Take just a few minutes every day to change your lifestyle habits and you can help prevent disease.
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