What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a kind of fat or lipid found in the body. It is present in every cell and is mainly produced by our liver. The body needs cholesterol to make bile salts, hormones and vitamin D. But excessive cholesterol in the blood stream can lead to atherosclerosis which is narrowing down and hardening of the arteries. The result may be high blood pressure, clogged arteries, blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
Hazards of high cholesterol levels
Cholesterol deposits itself on the artery walls when the level of cholesterol in the blood is high. There are 2 main types of blood cholesterol: Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) (the "Bad" cholesterol) and High-density lipoproteins (HDL) (the "Good" cholesterol). LDLs are bad because they are the ones responsible for deposit of plaque on the walls of arteries. A mass of plaque reduces the diameter of the artery and thereby restricts flow of blood through it. Then one day, the plaque ruptures and a blood clot forms, thereby cutting off the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart or brain. The good HDLs, on the other hand, take excess cholesterol away and carry it back to the liver to be excreted. They can also remove some of the cholesterol already deposited on the artery walls. Therefore high levels of HDL in the blood can help to decrease the risk of heart disease.
The safe zone for cholesterol is taken as given below
LDL Cholesterol <130 mg/dl
HDL Cholesterol >40 mg/dl
Triglycerides <150 mg/dl
Total Cholesterol <200 mg/dl
High cholesterol levels is one of the biggest health hazards which may lead to a fatal heart attack or stroke or high blood pressure. It therefore becomes very important to lower cholesterol quickly so as to decrease the huge health risks. High triglyceride too puts a person at a greater risk of succumbing to heart disease.
Ways to Lower Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels can be lowered with the help of drugs. But the unfortunate part is that the drugs used to treat this are perhaps more dangerous than the condition itself. Dizziness, heart failure and muscle damage are side effects of Statin drugs generally prescribed to lower cholesterol levels. Therefore, the safe way is to reduce cholesterol naturally which means without drugs. And this is possible as proved by many studies though not very easy to achieve.
LDL and Total Cholesterol can be reduced naturally by change in lifestyle (by increasing your physical activity) and also in your diet. It would be difficult to make a complete change overnight but let me tell you that gradual and step by step change is essential for your own survival. Now let me elaborate:
Exercise Daily exercise for half an hour must be done religiously. There can be no escape even if you dislike exercise. Exercise produces better results than any drugs. It increases good cholesterol (HDL), reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and naturally lowers total cholesterol levels – with absolutely no negative side effects. On the contrary, it makes you fitter, leaner and smarter. When you exercise for more than twenty minutes at a stretch, it results in production of certain hormones in your own body which give you a general sense of happiness.
Exercise will increase the heart rate and metabolism in the body allowing it to expel the harmful oils, which are detrimental to one’s health. But those who have not exercised before should first consult a physician to find out what is safe. For starters, brisk walking early in the morning is the best option.
Change In Diet
This means making changes in the food being eaten since this is the only way to control the amount of cholesterol going into the system. The first step is reducing the quantity of red meat being consumed. Good examples are steak, ham and bacon which are all high in fat. Fried food such as hamburgers, fries, eggs, chicken and pre-packaged frozen meals should also be avoided as they also contain excessive fat/cholesterol. Dairy products such as milk, should also be cut down. If the person has a hard time giving up milk, this can be substituted using skimmed milk or yogurt to provide calcium that the body needs. Junk food, candies and cake are also to be avoided because of high fat content.
Now what should one eat? The best items are beans, fish oil, virgin olive oil, fruits, citrus fruits, blueberries, garlic, grains, almonds, other nuts, soy, vegetables and whole grain bread. These things have antioxidants, vitamins and minerals as well as omega 3 acids that are known to reduce cholesterol levels in the body. Different combinations can be worked out daily so taht the person does not get tired of eating the same thing everyday just for the sake of a healthy diet. High fiber foods, such as oatmeal, flaxseeds, and fiber supplements must be included in the diet. The soluble fiber actually binds with cholesterol like a sponge absorbing water and carries it out of your body.
Supplements like Quality omega 3 fish oil capsules have been proven in numerous studies to be highly effective in naturally preventing and reversing heart disease. Fish oil does a better job than statin drugs with no negative side effects. Whole food supplements, including B complex, GTF chromium, etc can also help.
These restrictions and guidelines should be followed even when dining out with friends because a slight disruption in the plan can cause a setback to the process of reduction of cholesterol.
Thus, living a healthy life free from high levels of triglyceride and cholesterol can be achieved. But it does take a lot of determination and discipline to make this happen. If you have problem in giving up tasty food items and still want to avoid heart disease and stroke, there is a way out as one of the topmost cardio surgeon has found out. He says that all these self-denials are not necessary at all and prevention and cure of heart disease is possible in a natural way. If interested, you can find more details at the following sites: