Cholesterol is a body fat, or lipid. It is an important part of a healthy body, being a building block for steroids such as the sex hormones, and the hormones of the adrenal cortex. It is also the basis of the body’s manufacture of bile salts. Cholesterol is essential for many bodily functions, including proper brain and nerve function. Cholesterol is mainly produced in the liver, and has further use in forming cell membranes, and other needed tissues. Cholesterol is carried in the blood by special molecules called lipoproteins. Cholesterol is also introduced into the body by the foods a person eats. The main forms of lipoproteins are;
Low density lipoprotein (LDL). This is often known as ‘bad cholesterol’ and is thought to promote arterial disease. It carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells and can cause harmful cholesterol build up if there is too much to be used up by the cells. Causes of high total and LDL cholesterol levels include: Hereditary hyperlipidemia ( types ila or llb); Diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol; Liver disease; Under active thyroid; Poorly controlled diabetes; Overactive pituitary gland (a gland in the brain that helps control hormones in the body); A kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome characterized by elevated cholesterol, loss of protein in the urine leading to low levels of protein in the blood, and excessive fluid retention causing swelling; Anorexia nervosa and Medications such as progestogens, cyclosporins, and thiazide diuretics.
High density lipoprotein (HDL). This is often referred to as ‘good cholesterol’, and may oppose arterial. It takes cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where its either broken down or excreted. Causes of low HDL cholesterol include: Malnutrition, Obesity, Cigarette smoking; certain medications such as beta blockers and anabolic steroids; Low levels of physical activity; Polycystic ovarian syndrome (a hormonal disorder caused by multiple cysts in the ovaries accompanied by irregular or no menstruation, acne, obesity, and excessive facial hair)
Triglycerides. Causes of high triglycerides levels include: Hereditary hyperlipidemia (Types I, IIb, III, IV, or V); Diets high in calories, especially from sugar and refined carbohydrates; Obesity; Poorly controlled diabetes; Insulin resistance (decreased effectiveness of insulin, a hormone that lowers blood sugar levels); Alcohol use; Kidney failure; stress, Pregnancy, Polycystic ovarian syndrome; Hepatitis; Lupus; Multiple myeloma( a rare disease that occurs more frequently in men than in women and is associated with anemia, bleeding, recurrent infections, and weakness); Lymphoma (tumor of the lymphoid tissue); certain medications such as estrogens (available in either oral contraceptives or as part of hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women) and corticosteroids, a class of cholesterol-lowering medications known as bile acid binding resins (including cholestramine, colestipol, colesevelam) and isotretinoin (used to treat acne).
The liver produces roughly 80% of the cholesterol needed by the body for proper functioning. If a person chooses to eat an abundance of high cholesterol foods, his cholesterol count can exceed the amount needed to keep the body in balance, resulting to high cholesterol. When too much cholesterol is in the bloodstream plaque builds up in the arteries, blocking blood flow to the brain, heart, kidneys, genitals and extremites. High cholesterol is determined by taking a blood test. A cholesterol level of less than 200 is ideal, 200 to 239 is borderline, 240 and higher is considered high cholesterol. High cholesterol is responsible for many health problems, including heart disease, gall stones, impotence, mental impairment and high blood pressure. High cholesterol is caused by several factors, some of which can be controlled and others cannot. Controllable risk factors include diet, diabetes, hypothyroidism, weight, smoking and lack of exercise. Uncontrollable risk factors include lipid disorders and advancing age. High cholesterol is a “silent” condition that does not causes recognizable symptoms. Many people do not realize they have high cholesterol until they develop an associated condition, such as atherosclerosis or stroke. By the first time symptoms start, damage to the arteries is usually severely damaged.
In its advanced state, however, high cholesterol may result to any of the following: Fat deposits in the tendons and skin (called xanthomas); Enlarge liver and spleen (which the healthcare provider may feel exam); Severe abdominal pain as a result of pancreatitis (this happens if triglycerides deposit in the pancreas, which may occur when triglyceride levels are 800mg/dL or higher) and chest pain and even a heart attack (this may occur when enough cholesterol has built up in blood vessel walls to block the flow in the heart).
POSSIBLE LIFESTYLE CHANGES, HELP AND RECOMMENDATIONS
– The best ways to lower cholesterol is by altering lifestyle or taking doctor-prescribed medications.
– Eating low cholesterol foods, quitting smoking, exercising regularly and losing weight can significantly lower the risk of high cholesterol and will lower cholesterol in those with high levels.
– Being overweight increases risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. Even small degrees of weight loss can make nutritional changes more effective in lowering LDL-a 5 to 10 pound weight loss can double the LDL reduction achieved by dietary adjustment alone. Weight loss is often accompanied by lowered triglycerides and an increased HDL-levels as well.
– Drink fresh juices (carrot, beef and celery) and eat plenty of fiber. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends increased intake of dietary fibre in form of whole grain, vegetables, fruits, and legumes because they have been shown to the following: Reduce total and LDL cholesterol more effectively than a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol alone; Help control weight and intake of calories by promoting a sense of fullness and improve cholesterol and triglycerides levels as well as blood sugar in people with diabetes. Soluble fibers such as those in psyllium husk, guar gum, and oat bran, have a cholesterol-lowering effect when added to a low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet. Studies have shown psyllium, in particular, to be quite effective in lowering total as well as LDL cholesterol levels. Oat bran (3 g per day) has also been shown to lower total cholesterol.
– Avoid eating nuts, butter, margarine, alcohol, sweets, carbonated beverages, coffee, white bread and all fried foods. Include Cholesterol lowering foods like apples, banana, carrots, cold-water fish, dried beans, garlic, grapefruit and olive oil in your diet.
– Don’t eat nuts except raw unsalted walnuts and almonds. Almonds contain arginic acid that lowers cholesterol.
– Get moderate exercise daily and avoid stress daily and avoid stress whenever possible. Regular physical activity by itself both reduces the risk of death from heart disease and enhances the effects of diet on LDL cholesterol levels.
– Plant sterols (fats present in fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts) appear to interfere with the absorption of cholesterol, thereby lowering the level of cholesterol in the blood. A daily intake of 1.6g of margarine containing plant sterols has been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol.
– If red wine is consumed, it is recommended that men have no more than two glasses (20 g ethanol) per day and women, no more than 1 glasses (15 g ethanol).
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