We often hear about cholesterol from our friends and family when discussing someone suffering from issues caused by cholesterol. But our knowledge about it is quite insufficient and irrelevant in most cases.
Cholesterol is a waxy molecule that our bodies require to form cells, vitamins, and hormones. It is a chemical that circulates throughout the body along with blood. As the cholesterol level in your blood rises, so does the risk to your health. High cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. That is why it is vital to have your cholesterol levels examined to know where you stand.
In our body, cholesterol increases in two ways. First, our liver secretes cholesterol. The other source is the foods like poultry and dairy products. Also, there are several different types of cholesterols. Some of them are pretty important to our body, and some are not so much. Therefore, people above 45, suffering from obesity and other related diseases and a family history of cholesterol issues, should regularly check their cholesterol levels.
Types Of Cholesterol
There are majorly two types of Cholesterols. Namely, they are Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL).
1. Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is commonly known as the “bad” cholesterol. It’s called bad cholesterol because the component of protein in this molecule is very low, this hampers the ability of your blood vessels to perform in an optimum manner. When the LDL content of your blood rises, it forms a thick coating on the inside walls of your arteries, causing them to thicken up and act as a blockage to the blood flow. Now the blood transports oxygen to our heart and other body parts. Having high amounts of LDL can hamper this transportation process. In addition, it leads to symptoms like chest pain, congestion, etc., that lead to strokes and, in the worst-case scenario, a heart attack.
To control your LDL levels, one must ensure that they are not consuming fats linked to LDL in excess. Commonly these trans fats are present in fast foods, processed foods and a few dairy products. Hence such items should be consumed in moderations at all times to help achieve optimum LDL levels.
2. High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
High-density lipoprotein is the cholesterol known as the “good” cholesterol. It’s known as good cholesterol because the protein component is higher which in turn helps to clean the bloodstream. The job of HDL is to clean up excess cholesterol in our body, including LDL. Then transport it to our liver, where it’s further broken down and ultimately removed from our body. Therefore, if a person cannot control their LDL levels, one can say that they cannot produce sufficient amounts of HDL.
Foods to Lower Cholesterol Levels
Given that cholesterol gets released by our liver and perceived via the food we consume, many of these items can aid in regulating our blood cholesterol levels.
1. High Fibre Foods
Fibrous foods or roughage are some of the best removers of LDL from the body. However, they are plant-based substances that are not entirely digestible for the body. Hence they are in the body for prolonged periods and are excreted along with the bad cholesterol molecules helping us maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Highly fibrous foods help reduce LDL, but as they are in the intestine for longer, they also allow us to feel satiated for long. Subsequently, it results in fat loss and eventually weight loss.
Beans are especially rich in soluble fibre that is extremely important for our body. Not only they are a great source of nutrition for people looking to lose weight, but they can also help us reduce our LDL levels. Their availability in different forms like kidney beans, black beans, etc., makes them relatively easy to be added to our diet.
Fruits & Veggies
No one can deny the benefits of having fruits and green leafy vegetables in our diet. But more so, they are a great source of soluble fibres, sometimes referred to as roughage. As a result, they can help significantly lower LDL levels and are a tasty addition to our diet.
Fruits like apples, berries, grapes and citrus fruits help lower the LDL levels in your body. These fruits contain pectin. Several studies showcase the benefits of pectin in lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Hence, the consumption of these fruits can help lower LDL.
2. Healthy Fats
As we know, there are good and bad cholesterols. Similarly, there are good and bad fats. To reduce the bad fats, we need to replace them with good fats. Fats obtained from meats are generally bad, whereas fatty fishes provide many good fats. Including such foods in our diets, about 2-3 times a week in our body, can help regulate cholesterol. Such benefits come from Omega-3, which is responsible for the increase in HDL levels of our cholesterol.
Despite their small size, chia seeds are rich in nutrients. They include ALA, a member of the omega-3 fatty acid family, linked to a decreased risk of heart disease. In addition, they can be taken in various ways, making them easy to integrate into your meals.
Walnuts have a high concentration of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They also include high levels of the minerals manganese and copper. According to several pieces of research, eating walnuts may help decrease blood pressure in persons with high blood pressure and healthy people under stress.
Omega-3 helps develop cells and maintains cells’ health. It also lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. As a result, it reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases and heart strokes. Fish is one of the richest sources of omega3. You can eat fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, shellfish, and shrimp. They are rich in omega-3 and can help reduce the risk of heart diseases and lower cholesterol levels.
3. Foods Containing Soy
People who prefer not to consume animal-based commodities can meet their needs for healthful fats by eating soy-based meals. Soy is essentially a blend of good fats and fibre. Soy not only helps us lower LDL levels by assisting our bodies in getting rid of them. But it also helps increase HDL levels because of unsaturated fats. Research shows the effect of soy is most prominent in people suffering from high cholesterol issues.
Tofu is made by drying soybeans and having them mixed with soy milk. It’s one of the richest sources of soy as more or less it’s entirely made from soy and its by-products. Its usually flavourless in raw form but can be cooked quickly with different seasonings making it an easy snack for people struggling with cholesterol issues.
Roasted soybeans, or “soynuts,” are high-protein, high-fibre snacks with 15 grammes of protein and 7 grammes of fibre in a one-quarter cup. They are a natural source of soy, and you can eat them as a snack at any time of day.
Water, as we know, is known as a miracle drink with numerous benefits. But studies have shown that drinking water-rich hydrogen is one of the best ways to reduce LDL levels. Experts recommend consuming 7-8 litres of water daily for people suffering from cholesterol issues. It helps reduce inflammation, leading to better blood flow and relieving stress from the blood vessels.
Causes of Cholesterol Spikes
It is common knowledge that stress is not suitable for our mental health. But little is known about its effect on our physical health, especially cholesterol. When our body goes through stress, abnormal amounts of adrenaline and cortisol occur in our body. It leads to symptoms like elevated blood sugar, varied cholesterol levels, and inflammation in our bodies. According to various studies, stress causes a decrease in good cholesterol levels while increasing bad cholesterol in our system, leading to severe health and related effects. Over time, this causes your liver to create more cholesterol and triglycerides, both blood fats.
Your cholesterol levels are also affected by the sex hormone oestrogen. When oestrogen levels drop after menopause, your cholesterol rises. According to research, LDL and total cholesterol levels rise around and after your last period. To make matters worse, women may gain up to 8 to 10 pounds on average after menopause which adds to the problem. You must note that changes to cholesterol by menopause may not be immediately noticeable. Hence it’s recommended to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels regularly.
While alcohol does not contain cholesterol, it can impact blood cholesterol levels positively and negatively. It is because the liver metabolises alcohol and also creates cholesterol. Alcohol can boost cholesterol levels since the same organ that produces cholesterol also metabolises alcohol. Furthermore, drinking elevates triglyceride levels. Before other nutrients are in your body, your body will break down calories from alcohol to utilise as fuel which is not optimum for the working of our system.
Foods and Lifestyle Habits To Steer Away To Lower Cholesterol
Meat And Trans Fats
Studies suggest avoiding bulky meat cuts, mainly red meat and even poultry when suffering from high cholesterol. Only a single serving of such meals can severely affect your health. Even you must avoid processed foods containing trans fats as they are sources of LDL cholesterol. Occasionally eating out might be a safe bet, but not a regular occurrence.
Excessive Oil and Butter
Butter is a rich source of LDL cholesterol, which can be a deterrent to the proper functioning of our blood vessels. Even though butter is a dairy product, it comes from milk fats and not whole milk. Whereas in the case of oil, the choice of oil matters a lot concerning its effect on our cholesterol. It’s a popular myth that coconut oil is beneficial for heart health, whereas it’s quite the opposite in reality.
Various studies show that coconut oil increases good and bad cholesterol. It can lead to counterproductive results and thus should be avoided if possible or taken in moderation if necessary.
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, please remember that long durations of sitting lead to obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It reduces good cholesterol while increasing triglyceride levels, assisting in eliminating bad cholesterol. You should routinely exercise, get up and move around every 30 minutes if you work at a desk, or consider utilising a standing desk. Sitting consumes less energy than standing or moving. According to the study, even modest exercise might have a significant influence. For starters, it helps you burn more calories. Physical activity also aids in the maintenance of muscle tone, mobility, and mental health, which is especially essential as you become older.
The Bottom Line
Millions of people in the world are suffering from cholesterol issues at this very moment. Most of them are not even aware of the severity of their situation or even know they have a problem at hand. It’s high time we are made aware of potentially harmful conditions that may turn severe if not lethal in the long term. You must take steps to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition and moderate physical activity to prevent cholesterol and other issues.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Does drinking a lot of water lower cholesterol?
A. Yes, drinking lots of water does help in lowering LDL cholesterol levels as it helps the body get rid of the bad cholesterol.
Q. What can cause a sudden increase in cholesterol?
A. Not having much physical activity throughout the day or for an extended period of hours can cause your cholesterol level to shoot up along with having fatty cuts of meat, especially during the later part of the day when the body is not going to be in much motion.
Q. Can one meal raise your cholesterol?
A. Although it is not common, having a large portion of fatty meat cuts may cause your cholesterol to rise throughout one meal.
Q. Can a fatty liver cause high cholesterol?
A. Cholesterol from the diet is primarily metabolised. If you consume too much, you risk developing fatty liver disease. High cholesterol levels can also cause fatty liver disease to progress to more severe and often deadly consequences.
Q. How fast can cholesterol change?
A. Cholesterol reduces gradually, rather than abruptly, following a few days of healthy living. There is no specific time frame within which cholesterol falls. Cholesterol-lowering medications often generate a reduction in LDL within 6 to 8 weeks. Lifestyle adjustments can affect cholesterol levels in as little as a few weeks.
Q. Is vitamin D good for high cholesterol?
A. Yes, Vit-D does possess properties that allow them to reduce our LDL cholesterol levels. Still, researchers haven’t found significant evidence for it acting for HDL cholesterol. Also, one should take a medical suggestion before using any supplement.
Q. How often should you check your cholesterol if it is high?
A. Every 4 to 6 years, most healthy persons should get their cholesterol examined. However, some people, such as those with heart disease or diabetes, or those with a family history of high cholesterol, should get their cholesterol tested more frequently.
Q. How long does it take to lower cholesterol without medication?
A. In most cases, it might take three to six months to observe reduced LDL readings on diet and exercise alone, with women taking longer to notice changes than men.