Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells of the body. Your liver makes most of the cholesterol in your body, and the rest comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol is important because:
- Helps produce hormones
- It helps your body make vitamin D
- Helps in digestion
Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream attached to proteins. These proteins are called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the blood:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): This is the “bad” cholesterol.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): This is the “good” cholesterol.
Cholesterol is essential to overall health, but too much LDL cholesterol circulating through your blood can lead to plaque buildup in your blood vessels over time. An essential factor to remember is that bad LDL cholesterol does not show any symptoms and can lead to a sudden health crisis. Therefore, learning about your LDL cholesterol and maintaining a healthy level should be your priority.
LDL cholesterol: an overview
Fats, like cholesterol, are insoluble in water and require a carrier to transport them to the different parts of the body. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is one such particular type of lipoprotein.
LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” because when it reaches excessive levels it builds up in the bloodstream and causes plaque. Over time, the plaque narrows the arteries and eventually leads to a heart attack or stroke.
The liver produces very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which is then metabolized to LDL through a chain reaction involving a specific lipase. It is interesting to note that LDL makes up most of the cholesterol in your body.
Ideal LDL levels
It is necessary to closely monitor cholesterol levels, as an increase in LDL levels can lead to cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks and even death. Knowing the healthy range for LDL cholesterol is key to preventing these risks.
A normal LDL level is less than 100 mg/dL, but it may vary with age, gender, and the presence or absence of risk factors such as family history, blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes. However, an LDL level above 100 mg/dL is undesirable for someone with diabetes or heart disease.
Here’s the general chart of LDL ranges.
- Less than 100 mg/dL: optimal
- 100-129 mg/dL: close to optimal/above optimal
- 130-159 mg/dL: borderline high
- 160-189 mg/dL: high
- 190 mg/dl and above: very high
Reasons for high harmful cholesterol
According to the World Health Organization, globally, one-third of ischemic heart diseases are attributed to high cholesterol. Overall, high cholesterol is estimated to cause 2.6 million deaths (4.5% of the total) and 29.7 million DALYs, or 2% of all DALYs. There are many underlying causes, some more treatable than others.
High LDL cholesterol is often the result of excess dietary cholesterol, bile, or an imbalance in cholesterol synthesis and absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes, high LDL cholesterol is hereditary, which increases the risk of familial hypercholesterolemia. In such cases, the body struggles to remove LDL cholesterol.
Some other common reasons behind high LDL levels are:
- physical inactivity
- An unhealthy diet that includes red meat, full-fat dairy sources, trans fats, and processed fats
- Lack of good sleep
- Certain medications
- Genetic disorders
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
As people get older, the risk of high cholesterol increases. This is because genetic factors, smoking, obesity, an unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity double the risk. Since high LDL cholesterol does not necessarily have symptoms, it is essential to monitor your LDL levels regularly. Regular monitoring of LDL levels is vital among patients with high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.
Strategies for achieving a healthy level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
Achieving a healthy level of LDL cholesterol may seem difficult, but it is not impossible. Here are some of the best lifestyle changes to help you reach your cholesterol goal.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables can help control cholesterol levels and help lead a healthy life. Be sure to include oatmeal, Kidney beansAnd apples and other foods rich in fiber to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the blood.
Stick to moderate or high-intensity exercise and do it for 45-60 minutes, at least 3-4 times per week, to reduce LDL and increase good cholesterol.
Studies show that a BMI of 30 or more will lead to higher LDL cholesterol. Thus, losing weight can have a positive effect on cholesterol.
Smoking makes cholesterol stickier. The nicotine in tobacco causes a decrease in the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which causes fat to build up in the arterial wall. Hence, it sticks to the walls of the arteries and blocks them.
Limit alcohol consumption
Alcohol breaks down into triglycerides. When the triglyceride level gets too high, it can build up in the liver, causing fatty liver disease. As a result, the liver cannot function as well as it should and cannot remove cholesterol from the blood, resulting in high cholesterol levels.
Reduce saturated and trans fats
While adjusting to a healthy diet, choose foods low in saturated and trans fats. In addition, foods such as baked goods, sugary snacks or fried foods will negatively affect your cholesterol level.
Maintaining an optimal range of LDL cholesterol levels is vital to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease. Simple lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, can help lower bad cholesterol. Making these positive changes in your life will also have a profound impact on your overall health.
So if you want to understand what you should eat and what lifestyle changes you should make to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, speak to an expert from HealthifyMe and start your journey to healthy living.
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