Cholesterol has remained one of the most lesser-known and lesser-understood substances of the human body. For years, it has been believed that cholesterol in foods can cause heart disease. It can be a bit complicated since there is also a type called HDL cholesterol which is considered “good” because it protects against heart attack and stroke.
So, before labelling it as good or bad, let us understand what cholesterol is and how it affects our everyday health.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is required by our body to carry many metabolic processes. It is made in our liver and has many important functions. Our body needs cholesterol in the production of hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones etc. It is also required to produce Vitamin D and bile acids that help us digest the food.
However, the amount of cholesterol required by the body is usually produced by the body itself. And like anything in the body, too much cholesterol or cholesterol in the wrong places creates problems. High levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of many lifestyle challenges. It is therefore important to keep the cholesterol level under the required amount.
Cholesterol and Lipoproteins
Cholesterol does not dissolve and therefore cannot travel on its own through the bloodstream. The liver produces particles called lipoproteins to carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. These lipoproteins are a combination of fat (lipid) and protein. Cholesterol is also a type of lipid which gets attached to the proteins so it can move through the blood.
There are majorly two types of lipoproteins – High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL).
HDL transports cholesterol to your liver to be expelled from your body. It helps to get rid of the excess cholesterol from your body so it does not end up in the arteries.
LDL takes cholesterol to your arteries, where it may collect in artery walls and can build up plaque. This may form a clot and get stuck in the narrowed space.
For a healthy and disease-free life, your HDL should be high and LDL should be low. Factors such as inactivity, obesity and an unhealthy diet contribute to high cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol.
How to improve your cholesterol?
Certain lifestyle changes can lower your cholesterol and help prevent you from having high cholesterol in the first place.
Eating a heart-healthy diet is important to reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health. Here is how you can do it.
- Lower your consumption of saturated fats and eliminate trans fats from your diet.
- It is also advisable to eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids as they have plenty of heart-healthy benefits.
- Including soluble fibres in your diet can also reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.
- Adding whey protein to your diet is also beneficial as it lowers both LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and blood pressure.
Physical activities like brisk walking, cycling etc. can help improve high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Extra pounds contribute to high cholesterol. Keeping your weight under control can influence the way your body absorbs and produces cholesterol.
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