HIGH CHOLESTEROL AND ITS DIETARY MANAGEMENT
Cholesterol is a waxy steroid metabolite found in the cell membranes and transported in the blood plasma of all animals. It is an essential structural component of the cell membranes, where it is required to establish proper membrane permeability and fluidity. In addition cholesterol is important for the manufacture of bile acids, steroid hormones and Vitamin D.Although cholesterol is an important and necessary molecule, a high level of serum cholesterol is an indicator of diseases such as heart disease. Cholesterol travels through blood in different types of bundles, called lipoproteins since it is insoluble in blood. In addition to providing soluble means for transporting cholesterol through the blood, lipoproteins have cell targeting signals that direct the lipids they carry to certain tissues. For this reason there are several types of lipoproteins within the blood called very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). Abnormal cholesterol levels that is higher concentrations of LDL and lower concentrations of functional HDL are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease. LDL cholesterol is termed as -bad cholesterol’ because they have been linked to atheroma (atherosclerosis). On the other hand, high concentrations of functional HDL, which can remove cholesterol from the cells, offer protection and are referred as -good cholesterol’. These balances are genetically built but can be changed by body build, medications, food choices and other factors.
CAUSES: A total cholesterol level of less than 200 is best. 200-239 is borderline high. 240 or more means you are at increased risk of heart disease. There are number of reasons that increase the cholesterol levels. Heredity: Genes may influence how the body metabolizes LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited form of high cholesterol that may lead to early heart disease. Weight: Excess weight may modestly increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol level. Losing weight may lower LDL and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Improper Diet: Most of the cholesterol found in the body is produced in liver and only a small part of it comes from dietary cholesterol. As long as you don’t have genetic predisposition for high cholesterol, dietary cholesterol will most likely have minimal effect on blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fat and Trans fat (found in whole milk dairy products, red meat, certain processed and fried foods) is what is to be avoided. Too much saturated fats and Trans fat will increase the LDL levels. Being physically inactive: Being physically inactive can increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol. Age and Gender: Cholesterol levels tend to rise with age for both men and women. Prior to menopause, women generally have a lower cholesterol levels than men their age, but after menopause, many women experience a substantial increase in LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol. SYMPTOMS: Symptoms of High Cholesterol usually are rare. High cholesterol levels are generally identified from a blood test. The symptoms seen are actually from the end result of high cholesterol for health issues such as coronary heart disease, stroke.
DIETARY MANAGEMENT: If the cholesterol count has to be improved, it’s not simply the question of eating less fat. A low-fat diet by itself is unlikely to work. Instead a nutritionally well balanced diet has to be followed that provides the right balance of macronutrients ( carbohydrates, protein, fat) and micronutrients ( vitamins and minerals) plus sufficient amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber. To maintain a healthy body and an efficient metabolism, we need a wide range of nutrients, other wise our system won’t work effectively. So for best results aim to develop healthy eating habits. Choose Healthy Fats: Not all types of fat are bad for serum cholesterol. Our body needs some fats called as essential fatty acids (EFA) because our body does not manufacture them itself. The most important essential fatty acid is known as omega -3 (alpha-linolenic acid). This is found in some vegetable oils like flax seed oil and fish oil from fish like mackerel, herrings, sardines and tuna. Omega -3 actually helps to improve blood fats like cholesterol. Switch to Non-Saturated fats/oils: Aside from EFAs, the basic rule for lowering cholesterol is to substitute non-saturated fats (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat from foods like fish, nuts and vegetable oils) for saturated fat. The latter is found mostly in animal foods like meat and cheese, so go easy on meat/cheese and introduce more vegetarian meals into your diet plan. Avoid Trans-Fats: Beware of foods that contain -hydrogenated- or -partially hydrogenated or -trans fats-. Limit your intake of shortenings, margarine, cakes, cookies, crackers, snack foods, fried foods, donut, pastries, baked foods and other processed foods made from these fats. High intake of these fats increase the cholesterol levels and can cause atherosclerosis. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are packed with valuable nutrients and contain a number of plant chemicals (phytochemicals) which are supposed to offer some protection against heart disease and cancer. Fruits are good source of Vitamin C (which helps to protect against degenerative diseases like atherosclerosis and cancer) and potassium (helps regulate blood pressure) as well as both soluble and insoluble fiber both of which help reduce cholesterol levels. Vegetables provide a wide range of nutrients, many of which help to maintain good heart health. Choose High fiber, Low GI Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are an essential element in any low- cholesterol diet plan. They are nutritious and an excellent source of soluble and non- soluble fiber. The basic rule is to choose high-fiber low G-I carbohydrates that are whole grain meaning they retain most of the original fiber and grain. Examples of whole grain include: whole wheat, whole oats/oatmeal, wheat germ, brown rice, whole rye, whole grain barley, buckwheat While you can’t control your genetics, age or gender you are in control when it comes to making the lifestyle changes necessary to lower high cholesterol. Eating a healthy diet, losing weight and exercising regularly will not only lower high cholesterol, it will reduce the risk for numerous other health problems.