Excess cholesterol in the body can be detrimental. Elevated blood cholesterol increases heart disease risk, but proactive measures to control it can effectively reduce heart attack chances.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a natural waxy substance essential for organ, tissue, and hormone formation. Although the liver produces most cholesterol, some also comes from foods, especially those rich in saturated fat.

The Types of Cholesterol

  • Lipoproteins: Fats don't dissolve in blood, so they bind with protein molecules, forming 'lipoproteins'.
    • HDL (High Density Lipoprotein): Dubbed the "good" cholesterol, HDL transports surplus cholesterol to the liver for disposal.
    • LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein): Often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, LDL can lead to artery-clogging fatty deposits. Keeping both types at optimal levels helps prevent heart disease.

Interpreting Cholesterol Levels

A simple blood test measures cholesterol in "milligrammes per deciliter" (mg/dl). Here's a handy guide:

  • Total Cholesterol: Below 200 mg/dl
  • LDL Cholesterol: Below 130 mg/dl (or below 100 mg/dl for those with diabetes or cardiovascular issues)
  • HDL Cholesterol: Above 40 mg/dl for men and above 55 mg/dl for women

Shedding Light on Triglycerides

Triglycerides are simpler fats than cholesterol. Factors like fatty meals, alcohol, and sugar can elevate its levels. Aim for below 150 mg/dl.

Risk Factors for Elevated Cholesterol Levels

  1. Diet: Foods laden with saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
  2. Obesity: A BMI over 30 heightens cholesterol risk.
  3. Physical Activity: Regular exercise boosts HDL and combats LDL.
  4. Smoking: Damages blood vessels and reduces HDL.
  5. Ageing: Older age can increase LDL due to liver inefficiencies.
  6. Diabetes: Elevates harmful cholesterol types and lowers HDL.

Managing Cholesterol Level

Managing high blood cholesterol involves a combination of dietary, lifestyle, and sometimes medical interventions. Implementing positive changes can significantly help reduce cholesterol levels.

Weight Management:

  • Optimal Body Weight: Extra body fat can increase cholesterol production. Aim for a healthy weight-to-height ratio with a BMI of less than 23.
  • Healthy Waist Circumference: Men should aim for under 90 centimeters (or 44 inches) and women should aim for under 80 centimeters (or 42 inches).

Dietary Adjustments:

  • Limit Saturated Fat: Foods rich in saturated fats, like red meats, full-fat dairy, fried foods, and certain oils, elevate blood cholesterol. Opt for alternatives.
  • Favor Mono-unsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats: Use oils and foods rich in these beneficial fats. For example, olive oil, canola oil, certain nuts and seeds, and margarine.
  • Monitor Cholesterol Intake: Ideally, keep cholesterol intake under 300 milligrams per day. Be cautious of foods with high cholesterol rates.
  • Incorporate Protective Foods: Some foods can counteract high cholesterol. Regularly consume fish (2-3 times weekly), fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Stay Active:

  • Routine Exercise: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise most days of the week. Activities like brisk walking or swimming are great options.

Medicinal Assistance:

  • Cholesterol Medications: A range of medications are available to manage blood cholesterol. It's vital to discuss this with your doctor before starting any medication.

Lifestyle Choices:

  • Avoid Smoking: It not only reduces the "good" HDL cholesterol but also damages blood vessels, increasing the risk of fatty deposits.
  • Limit Alcohol and Sugars: Excessive consumption can lead to elevated triglyceride levels, another type of harmful fat in the bloodstream.

Remember, individual needs and risks can vary, so always consult with a healthcare professional when making significant changes to your cholesterol management plan.