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Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

We’ve all heard the word Cholesterol; it is an essential component in our body. However, in recent times, the term cholesterol has received somewhat of a bad reputation. Especially with words like high  and low cholesterol being thrown around here and there. Many individuals don’t even understand normal cholesterol levels and fall prey to the wrong information. So, let’s get that right first.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is produced by the liver in the body or can be obtained from foods such as meat, poultry and dairy products. Our liver produces around 1 gram of cholesterol every day and the rest is sourced from food. Despite all the flak it receives, cholesterol plays a crucial role in the body. Cholesterol is present in all cells and is also required for the synthesis of vitamin D, bile acids and certain hormones. 

Cholesterol isn’t soluble in blood and is transported in the body with the help of a protein making it a lipoprotein. 

There are two main lipoproteins: 

  1. HDL cholesterol [high-density lipoprotein] or good cholesterol.
  2. LDL cholesterol [low-density lipoprotein] or bad cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol is responsible for reducing excess cholesterol by increasing the excretion of cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol is responsible for transporting cholesterol and fat from the liver to the rest of the body. While both of these are important, a higher LDL cholesterol leads to a build-up of plaque and can block the arteries eventually increasing other heart health risks. 

Before we understand what causes high cholesterol, it is important to understand the levels of cholesterol required in the body. Cholesterol is diagnosed in the blood and a level greater than 200 mg/dl is termed as high cholesterol. Higher the cholesterol, the higher the associated health risks. 

What causes high cholesterol? 

What causes high cholesterol is a relatively common question. In fact, there are many reasons why we have high cholesterol. Let’s check them out: 

  1. Poor eating habits: 

Poor eating habits are one of the top reasons behind the increasing cholesterol in an individual. Cholesterol is obtained from foods that contain fat in the form of fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids play essential roles in the body, however, excess of it has been associated with increased total and LDL cholesterol. Hence, foods rich in saturated fatty acids like meat, poultry and high-fat dairy products should be consumed sparingly. However, trans fat is the bigger culprit. Trans fat not only increases total and LDL cholesterol but it also reduces HDL cholesterol. It is thus important to avoid the intake of food that forms trans fats such as processed foods, bakery products, and fried foods. High consumption can lead to high cholesterol in the body. 

  1. A sluggish lifestyle: 

Various research has suggested that physical activity can be linked to good health. According to the World Health Organization, adults must do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Inadequate physical activity is always the reason behind numerous lifestyle diseases. Physical activity helps reduce cholesterol in the body by increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps in lowering cholesterol from the bloodstream. Sitting around, not engaging in an active lifestyle and living a sedentary lifestyle can result in the accumulation of cholesterol and hence, high cholesterol and its associated risk factors. 

  1. Smoking is injurious to health:

 Smoking is yet another reason behind high cholesterol. Not only does smoking decrease HDL cholesterol, which is good cholesterol, but it also increases LDL cholesterol. Smoking also damages the blood vessels and speeds up the hardening of arteries and increases the risk of heart disease. 

  1. Mismanaged weight: 

Obesity is a contributing factor to various non-communicable diseases. Being obese means you’re at least 20% over your ideal body weight or have a BMI of higher than 25 kg/m2. Body weight has a direct association with cardiovascular risk factors, including high cholesterol. Studies have also suggested that losing weight is associated with positive health parameters like reducing total, LDL cholesterol. Hence, it is important to manage weight.

How to reduce cholesterol?

It is important to work towards reducing cholesterol. Let’s go through some ways:

  1. The question of how to reduce cholesterol is a common one. 
  2. The first step to reducing cholesterol is regular checkup. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to get tested every 5 years and more frequently if you have a family history for high cholesterol. 
  3. Another major step includes consuming a heart-healthy diet plan. Try including heart-healthy vegetables and fruits in your diet. Make sure to limit your processed food and fried food intake. 
  4. Exercise regularly; in fact, exercising regularly  will ensure normal cholesterol levels. Exercises can be of your choice; they can be yoga, running, strength training and something as simple as walking. 
  5. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or consume drugs; these habits lead to higher cholesterol. 
  6. Choose healthier ingredients for everyday life. Oil is a crucial component in all cooking. Use healthier oils; blended oils like Saffola Total which has been clinically proven to reduce cholesterol as they have a perfect balance of MUFAs and PUFAs, making Saffola Total a heart-healthy oil.

Cholesterol has important functions in the body, however, if it gets out of control, high levels of cholesterol can cause clogged arteries and heart disease. But making a few lifestyle changes and taking good care of your heart health can help reduce the risk of any severe heart problems. We hope these tips can help you lower cholesterol levels and help you live a healthier and happier life.

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