Cholesterol is fatty molecule essential for metabolic-energy-producing processes. Cholesterol is required to build structure of cell membrane, produce hormones like estrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones, produce vitamin D in body, bio-catalyze bile acids production to digest fats and nutrients. All body cells can produce cholesterol to form protective membranes. Liver is the primary source of cholesterol production in body, responsible for producing up to 1000mg of cholesterol per day or 75% of total cholesterol production. Small intestine aids in creation and production of cholesterol. Foods from plant sources are not a source of cholesterol. When we eat animal fats, the liver transports the fat and cholesterol in the form of lipoproteins, into our bloodstream. The total cholesterol count for your body, is made up of Low Density Lipoprotein(LDL) Cholesterol, High Density Lipoprotein(HDL) Cholesterol, one fifth (20%) triglyceride levels in the body and a less-understood variant of LDL (Lp (a)).
When you get your cholesterol levels tested, it should be 8 to 12 hours fasting i.e. you should be without food or medications before-hand. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood or mill moles (mmol) per liter (L). Health authorities recommend optimal cholesterol levels be lower than 5.5 mmol per liter if no risk factor is present. If there are cardiovascular risk as high blood pressure or heart disease, LDL level should be less than 2mmol/liter. Aim to have high HDL Cholesterol count for your body.
Low Density lipoprotein transport cholesterol to different body organs and tissues. When cholesterol level in body is in excess to required levels, excess is circulated in blood stream. Danger arises when LDL Cholesterol enters your blood vessels and lines the surface of blood vessel termed as “plaques” (swelling by deposit of fats, immune cells and other tissues). Presence of plaques narrows down the diameter of blood vessels, eventually blocking blood flow leading to coronary artery disease. In adverse conditions, if plaques rupture (burst open), it can produce a blood clot. These plaques may potentially block the flow of blood to the heart leading to a heart dysfunction. The plaque could block the flow of blood to the brain which can trigger a stroke or hemorrhage.
This LDL Cholesterol is sometimes referred as bad cholesterol. On the other side, High Density Lipoproteins binds to excess cholesterol in blood and anchors excess cholesterol back to liver where its broken down. The higher the count of HDL levels in body, lesser is presence of the disease causing bad cholesterol in the blood.
The uppermost recommended daily intake for cholesterol is 300 mg. The High Cholesterol foods include Egg yolks (a single egg yolk contains 200–250 mg of cholesterol), and Seafood. Prawns and seafood includes low saturated fats and healthy omega-3 fatty acids apart from cholesterol. However, care needs to be exercised not to eat fried and battered seafood.
LDL cholesterol can be lowered by using polyunsaturated oil as cooking medium for your food ( eg. sunflower or safflower oil). Food components like saponins (found in alfalfa sprouts, chickpeas) and sulphur compounds (like allicin – found in onions and garlic) may also have a positive effect in lowering cholesterol levels. Adding oats and legumes to diet can further lower LDL cholesterol by five per cent. Reducing blood sugar levels can reduce the incidents of cholesterol related illness such as heart disease, artherosclerosis and brain stroke. Plant sterols lower the presence of LDL cholesterol over a period of time if included in food in amount 25g/day. Sunflower seeds, Canola seeds, vegetable oils, nuts, cereals, fruit and vegetables are rich source of plant sterols
Lifestyle and food modifications need to be adopted to avoid cholesterol. Fresh fruit, vegetable and wholegrain fruits intake in food needs to be increased. Toned fat milk, soy milk and yogurt should replace the fatty dairy products in your diet. Choose “heart smart” lean meat, over sausages and salami. Fresh or canned fish twice a week can supplement your diet. Foods rich in soluble fiber and healthy fats such as nuts—almonds, walnuts, peach nuts, legumes and seeds. Strictly restrict alcohol consumption, smoking, cheese and ice-cream. Exercise regularly to loosen body fat & adipose tissues and to regulate blood sugar levels.
Regular medication for cholesterol reduction, after discussing the interaction to ascertain dosage, as per physician advise should be taken. The cholesterol lowering drugs include Statins, Bile-acid resins and Fibric acid derivatives . Cholesterol-lowering medicine is most effective in action when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. The mechanism and action of these cholesterol inhibitor drugs is as follows
Statinsà First Line of treatment for people with high cholesterol blocks the production of cholesterol in the liver, lowers LDL and marginally increases HDL.
Nicotinic Acid (B-complex vitamin) à lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol.
Bile acid resinsà Bile acid resins work inside the intestine, bind to bile from the liver and prevent it from being reabsorbed into the circulatory system. These work by depleting body’s supply of cholesterol.
Fibrates (Fibric Acid Derivatives)àFibrates reduce the production of triglycerides and marginally increase HDL Cholesterol.
The common side-effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs include abnormal liver functions, allergic reactions, abdominal pains, muscle aches, constipation, drowsiness, heartburn. Also grapefruit juice and solid consumption in food should be limited while taking statins as grapefruit interferes with liver’s ability to metabolize these medicines.