Cholesterol is made by the liver. It is a waxy substance that the body uses to build cells, among other processes. It is a type of fat also called a lipid. It travels through the bloodstream in tiny molecules wrapped inside proteins. These packages are called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) is one of the main types of lipoproteins in the blood. The other main type is high-density lipoproteins (HDL). A third type of lipid, called a triglyceride, also circulates in the blood. The body still needs a little cholesterol for healthy digestion and to make vitamin D and certain hormones.
Eating too many foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats may increase the risk of developing high cholesterol. Other lifestyle factors can also contribute to high cholesterol. These factors include inactivity and smoking. The genetics can also affect ones chances of developing high cholesterol. If the parents have high cholesterol, the offspring are at higher risk of having it too.
In most cases, high cholesterol is a “silent” problem. It typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. Many people don’t even realize they have high cholesterol until they develop serious complications, such as a heart attack or stroke.
If left untreated, high cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in the arteries. Over time, this plaque can narrow your arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can result in many life-threatening complications, such as: stroke, heart attack, angina (chest pain), high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, chronic kidney disease. High cholesterol can also create a bile imbalance, raising your risk of gallstones.
A cholesterol screening test is collectively reffered to as the Lipid Profile and is normally done in the morning before taking breakfast. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per decilitre (dL) of blood. Ideal results for most adults are:
Total Cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (the lower the number, the better)
LDL: 70 to 130 mg/dL (the lower the number, the better)
HDL: more than 40 to 60 mg/dL (the higher the number, the better)
triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg/dL (the lower the number, the better)
Following dietary guidelines, there are no specific recommended limits for the amount of cholesterol one consumes from food. But it’s still important to pay attention to the food that one eats in order to keep the body’s cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
Doctors now recommend that one limits the amount of harmful saturated fats, trans fats, and added sugars in the diet. You should also keep an eye on your cholesterol intake since foods that are high in cholesterol also tend to be high in saturated fats.
Cholesterol itself is only found in animal-based foods, including meat, dairy products, seafood, egg yolks, butter. Shrimp is high in cholesterol but very low in saturated fat.
Cholesterol-free foods…. There’s no cholesterol in foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts. These are also all part of a healthy well-balanced diet.
Foods that are high in saturated fats and should be limited include: red meat and pork, baked goods, such as cakes and cookies, cheese, pizza, ice cream, processed meats, such as sausages, fried foods.
Foods containing unhealthy trans fats, which should be avoided, include fried foods, packaged foods with “hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list baked goods, such as cakes, pies, and cookies, margarine, microwave popcorn, frosting.
Foods that contain healthy unsaturated fats, which you should eat, include olive, peanut, canola, safflower, and sunflower oils, avocados, most nuts, but especially walnuts, most seeds.
Cholesterol medications: In some cases, your doctor might prescribe medications to help lower your cholesterol levels. Statins are the most commonly prescribed medications for high cholesterol. They block the liver from producing more cholesterol.
Genetic risk factors for high cholesterol can’t be controlled. However, lifestyle factors can be managed.
To lower your risk of developing high cholesterol:
Eat a nutritious diet that’s low in cholesterol and animal fats, and high in fibre like oat bran, found in oatmeal and whole oats.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
Maintain a healthy weight.
In conclusion, Pay attention to the saturated and trans fats on the food labels, as well as added sugars. The less of these one consumes, the better. No more than 10 per cent of one daily calorie should come from either saturated fats or added sugars. Don’t worry about eating enough cholesterol. The body makes enough whether or not one consumes it. Eat healthier, unsaturated fats. Try replacing butter with extra virgin olive oil in cooking, Eat lean cuts of meat, and snack nuts and seeds instead of French fries or processed snack foods.