Cholesterol: Part 1

Hi friends, happy Friday!

Hope the past week was good for you. 

These days, lot of us have become health-conscious to some degree. This degree of consciousness and dedication to follow through, differs greatly yes, but it’s great to see more and more people eating healthy. Or at least talking about it.

What is the big deal about just talking? For me, it is. You have no idea how many people I meet in daily life who would laugh and simply refuse to eat healthy or get some basic-level exercise. 

Their reasons vary from “You Only live Once”, “No Time“, to “Whatever Happens, Happens”. And who am I to judge anyone? Slowly and slowly, I have started to understand that the need to eat healthy and be healthy, needs to come from within. If one is not ready, one is not ready.

Anyways, today’s post is about cholesterol. I have been asked many a times to write about cholesterol. A majority of us, suffer from high cholesterol issues and constantly elevated cholesterol could lead to serious problems, very soon if left unattended.

However, a majority of us are not even aware of our elevated cholesterol levels till we actually visit a doctor or get a blood test done.

So, What Exactly Is Cholesterol?

A type of waxy, fat-like substance, cholesterol is a type of lipid. It is also the most abundant steroid in our body. Contrary to the popular belief of cholesterol only coming in our body from outside through our diet, it is actually also produced inside our body, by liver.

Why Does Liver Produce Cholesterol?

Liver has to, because cholesterol is important for our survival as it:

  • Is needed for formation of cell walls
  • Plays an important part in digestive process in our body
  • Is needed for production of certain hormones
  • Is needed for our body to make Vitamin D

Now, the liver also makes lipoproteins which hold this cholesterol (and triglycerides- but we will come to these some other day) and transport it to the rest of the body through blood. Cholesterol can’t travel on its own, you see.

When we talk about cholesterol, what we really mean is these lipoproteins. These lipoproteins can be divided into two broad categories:

  1. LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein – termed often as bad cholesterol because it carries the cholesterol to our arteries and gets deposited there, resulting in atherosclerosis (aka plaque formation) i.e. narrowing of arteries
  2. HDL – High Density Lipoprotein – often termed as good cholesterol as it cleans the blood of LDL cholesterol by taking it back to liver for disposal

Too much of LDL in our blood is not a good news.

Why Worry About Elevated Cholesterol Levels?

As I said earlier, most of us not even aware of our cholesterol levels till we do a blood test or till something major happens. And that is why, annual blood check-ups are important, not just to check for cholesterol but for many other reasons.

This silent killer can lead us to:

  • All sorts of heart issues and a heart attack eventually
  • Chest pain
  • High BP
  • Stroke
  • Kidney issues
  • Obesity which yes, in itself causes so many complications

Broadly and this means total cholesterol levels, including HDL and LDL:

  • less than 200 gm/DL cholesterol in blood is good
  • 200-239 ml/DL is borderline high and you need to see your doc first and then, a nutritionist for some diet and lifestyle overhauling
  • 240 mg/DL is high and the doctor might put you on medication. However diet and lifestyle changes are still needed. Lot of us make the mistake of doing nothing corrective, thinking that medication alone would keep them safe

If you ask me, and even if the total cholesterol levels are fine but my LDL is high, I would still worry and start the overhauling process. So, if the LDL levels are more than 130 mg/DL, I would get a medical opinion to assess the situation. And start putting in some serious overhauling efforts.

As for HDL levels, less than 40mg/DL is risky and 40-59 is borderline low. What we want is a HDL reading of 60mg/DL and above.

High Risk Categories

Anyone who is 20 years and older, can have an elevated cholesterol level but one is at high risk if:

  • There is a family history of high cholesterol or heart ailments
  • The lifestyle is sedentary i.e. no physical activity
  • The person falls under obese category
  • The person has diabetes, liver, thyroid or kidney issues
  • PCOS
  • The person smokes or consumes tobacco products
  • The person consumes diet high in junk food and unhealthy saturated and trans fats
  • Certain drugs/medications

This post is already long enough. On how to work towards better cholesterol levels in body, please stay tuned for the sequel of today’s post, next Friday. 

Do join me on Instagram as I keep sharing info and tips on health, nutrition, fitness and…motivation in my stories, on a regular basis.

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace