“It is a scientific fact that your body will not absorb cholesterol if you take it from another person’s plate”-Dave Barry
It’s only natural that everyone likes to be the hero by branding someone else to be the villain. Being in the limelight for a good cause is a blessing but when the same is indeed for a negative one, it takes away all the charm surrounding it. Human body is a piece of art that’s been sketched and carved keeping the minutest nuances in mind. A gift of nature, the body reciprocates in the way we treat it! When we talk about health it always concerns eating nutritious foods, staying active and being energetic. Fats and cholesterol are the permanent villains here who are dark and twisted in the eyes of everyone. What we don’t try to pause and think is the fact that it’s us who have made these devilish and unwanted. Mankind is not kind enough to accept out flaws in eating habits and lifestyle changes but we love turning around the platesonto someone/something else. The same is true with cholesterol too!
Though I mentioned that we have two villains technically its only one as cholesterol is a type of lipid (another name for fat) but most of us aren’t aware of this fact about the fat!Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by the body naturally to keep us healthy. What, healthy? So, isn’t cholesterol the villain here? Absolutely not! In the absence of this substance none of us would be able to make cell membranes, vital hormones like testosterone and estrogen and bile acid required to digest and absorb fats and vitamins. When such are the effects of it on our body why on Earth do we blame this poor thing all the time for everything right from heart disease to blood pressure? That’s because, cholesterol is not “bad” by nature but their numbers determine whether they would be having a positive or negative effect on our body! That’s the reason why our doctors insist on taking a lipid profile test and advice against eating too much of high-cholesterol foods as these might have a debilitating effect on overall cholesterol levels.
Fight for the Right Type of Cholesterol
Hero and villain, sunshine and darkness, fat and thin and the list goes on. Cholesterol too comes as good and bad: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or the bad cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or the good cholesterol. LDL is probably the villain here as too much of it can combine with fats and other substances to build up in the inner walls of the arteries resulting in a thick, hard substance called plaque-sounds familiar isn’t it? Yes, it’s the buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis) that causes our arteries to become narrow and clogged restricting normal blood flow thereby resulting in a heart attack or stroke. HDL is the hero here as it helps in removing LDL from the body and also might remove cholesterol from plaque in the arteries. Apart from LDL, triglycerides are another type of fats whose buildup in the artery walls can cause plaque. Its major source is the food that we choose to eat besides being produced by the body.
Test to Keep Health Profile in Best Shape
Going for a blood test (fasting or non-fasting lipid profile as recommended by the physician) is the only way to get your hands on the actual cholesterol numbers of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats). The next question that probably is in your minds now is regarding the right time to go for a lipid profile test. It isn’t smart to bring about problems on your own but it isn’t also wise to procrastinate health-related checkups indefinitely. A health issue is not the only indication to go for a lipid profile and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends checking cholesterol levels once between the ages of 9 and 11 years and 17 and 21 years for kids and young adults with no family history of early heart disease. From the age of 20 it is advisable to take a lipid profile test every 4-6 years until the risks remain low. If you are an individual between 40 and 75 years of age it is better to ask your physician to check your 10-year risk; if you are between 20 and 39 years of age it is better to ask your doctor to assess your lifetime risk.
Treading On the Right Path to Lessen Your Chances of a Cholesterol Attack
The lipid profile gives an exact picture of your cholesterol levels to your physician and the right move thereon is to focus solely on keeping LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels under control. Once the physician is confident that you are at an increased risk, he/she comes up with a set of questions that would help the doctor structure a clear-cut treatment plan to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Two basic questions that every doctor is sure to assess includes your medical and family history and your individual risk of heart attack or stroke by considering your age, sex and history of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Be sure to answer questions that pop up on your diet routine, physical activity levels, alcohol or drug intake, supplement use or previous history of heart attack, stroke or blockages in the arteries of your heart, neck or legs. Once he/she has the risk factors handy the physician uses a risk calculator to determine your overall risk of CVD. For instance, a 10-year risk estimate of 10% implies that of 100 patients with the same set of risk factors as yours 10 of them would be suffering from heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years.
Are Your Risks Inborn?
Age is a natural risk factor that cannot be reversed which is directly proportional to the risk of high cholesterol. Those with a family history of high cholesterol are at an equal risk and so are those who are obese/overweight. Medically called as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) it’s a condition that’s present in families where the individuals suffer from very high LDL levels (>190 milligrams per deciliter). For such people, changes in eating habits and lifestyles sadly doesn’t reduce cholesterol levels and medications become mandatory to decrease LDL levels by 50-75%.
Apart from these, race/ethnicity can influence your 10-year risk calculation and the common groups at a higher risk include:
Choosing the Right Treatment Can Have a Significant Impact on Health
Abnormal lipid profile results don’t mean that your health is doomed beyond repair. When people roll back from stroke and cancer what’s the big deal in dealing with high cholesterol levels? First and foremost, irrespective of whether or not the physician prescribes medications he/she makes definite changes to your lifestyle which includes a heart-healthy diet, increased physical activity, losing weight and not smoking. Get a list of allowed/disallowed foods to make your choices simple and your cooking routines easier.
Always choose more of those foods that are low in saturated and trans fats which include:
It is recommended to restrict the intake of the following foods:
Besides eating habits there are quite a few other ways to improve your health which include:
Striding On the Medication Path
The world is never in shortage of medicines as we have numerous branded and non-branded medicines fighting each other for securing the top place in the healthcare industry. Though we do have a number of medications for lowering cholesterol levels too, statins are the commonly prescribed ones that are also associated with directly reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke by 21% as they prevent the production of cholesterol in the liver.
If you are someone suffering from CVD for which the doctor has already prescribed statins and now, your LDL-C levels are also above 70 the doctor might prescribe medications such as ezetimibe, PCSK9 inhibitors and bile acid binders either separately or in combination with each other.
The physician can only guide and suggest lifestyle changes and medications to improve your health. Its finally the individual who needs to put his/her heart and soul in managing the medical condition and protect the body against the attack of diseases and health problems. Self-care is integral to overall wellness and it has been estimated that self-care contributes to more than 40% of your health.
Unraveling the Myths
People love to gossip and an interesting news is like a piece of cake for everyone who loves to have a bite before it’s over. Likewise, news spreads like wildfire irrespective of the truth behind it. Listed below are some of the common myths and their facts relevant to cholesterol.
While cholesterol indeed exists as the villain in our lives it is in our hands to make it a hero by pursuing a healthy lifestyle that’s filled with nutritious foods, daily exercise, good sleep and peace. You might like to indulge in a double cheese burst pizza or a fried chicken tub at the mall but once you remind yourself of all the side effects, I don’t think anyone would ever try to include any of those as a regular part of our meals. There are theories and news that might persuade us to try anything that’s simple and easy, for instance, we have a latest research that eating an avocado a day lowers bad cholesterol levels. Many would instantly hang on to every word of the research and try it out as this doesn’t tire the mind or strain the body but only includes something that we all love to do-eat food! Be sensible and understand that it’s not one single ingredient or food that can bring about radical changes to your body and its well-being but a couple of factors that together work hard to keep us healthy.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.
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Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz of First Eat Right clinic, is the Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Bangalore. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Pune. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Hyderabad. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Chennai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Mumbai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Delhi. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Kolkata.