Hi friends, how are you all? I am sure all good and if something needs work , you are already on it.
Tell me how would you feel if something that you believed to be true, for your entire life, turned out to be not-so-true, after all? It feels unbelievable, right? There are many such facts for me. Everyday brings new researches and new information to the fore!
Nutrition especially feels like an onion, you peel one layer and then you get another. So many contradictions and still, all so true! It is confusing for most of us and a lot of times, the general advice we get/hear are too generalized, to be of much use to one person, with a specific goal or health-concern.
Same with human physiology. Whenever I start exploring this particular subject, I get overwhelmed. What a miracle a human body is! Precise, self-sufficient and extremely smart…greatest gift to us and one we need to value as such!
Anyways, today’s topic is from nutrition and human physiology both. It is about cholesterol. And if we thought, we knew all about cholesterol, I can tell you straight away that we don’t. Why do I say that? Read on!
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, odorless, waxy, fat-like substance which circulates in our blood and is found in all our cells. It is a fatty substance (lipid) but not fats.
Cholesterol is not bad in itself. In fact, it is critical for our body to have cholesterol to:
- build cells
- make vitamins
- make hormones
The only problem with cholesterol is – when there is too much of it!
Cholesterol can be further classified in two main categories such as,
- LDL– Low Density Lipoprotein – the bad kind ( ideally less than 100 mg/dl)
- HDL – High Density Lipoprotein – the good kind (60 mg/dl and above is optimal)
Elevated Cholesterol Concerns
As the cholesterol levels increase in the blood, the health risks increase too. Elevated cholesterol levels in blood can increase the risks for cardiovascular diseases including heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis (build-up of fatty deposits in arteries). Atherosclerosis, in itself can lead to various other problems such as erectile dysfunction etc
High cholesterol can affect anyone at any age. The narrowing of arteries can start happening in childhood and though the consequences are felt much later in life, it is a fact.
So, Where Does Cholesterol Come From?
Primarily from our own liver. Yes, the liver makes all the cholesterol that we need. The rest – the dietary cholesterol, comes from food but from animal sources only e.g. dairy, eggs, meat etc
These foods are often high in saturated and trans-fat also. So is junk-food. This kind of fat pushes our liver to make more of cholesterol and this additional cholesterol is what elevates our blood-cholesterol levels.
What Causes Cholesterol?
Our body produces all the cholesterol that we need and it’s OUR unhealthy choices that are to be blamed for elevated cholesterol levels. The main causes are:
- Unhealthy, unbalanced diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Being obese or overweight
- Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) – a genetic condition
Symptoms of Elevated Cholesterol
Unfortunately, high cholesterol levels don’t have much symptoms and the effects start showing much later. And that is why an annual blood-work is a great idea.
For many people, a first heart attack is generally the first indication of elevated cholesterol levels and narrowed arteries.
In The End
It is definitely possible to lower the elevated cholesterol levels. Making necessary lifestyle and dietary changes is a great first step. It generally works beautifully. A few dietary supplements can help too, along with a well-balanced diet and a regular physical activity.
If that doesn’t work, consulting a physician, having a heart scan done and starting prescribed medication (statins) might reduce the health risks.
Just remember, small steps and small changes on a consistent basis, add up to great benefits in long term. Till we get on lifelong medication and fall in serious-risk category, it is always a good time to start. It is worth making these changes. Afterwards, it just becomes a necessity to stay alive. There is absolutely no need for us to come to that level, if we are ready to work for that goal.
Hope today’s post helped in understanding cholesterol better and to know that it is a critical part of our well-being till we overdo it.
Till next Friday
Love, Health & Peace