Cholesterol can be both your friend and foe; at healthy levels, it can play an important in the normal functioning of the body, however, if its levels become excessively high, it can be a recipe for disaster and can put you at a risk of heart attack.
So, What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is contained in every cell of the human body, and as stated, it has important natural functions. It is oil based, and it does not mix with blood. It is thus transported around the body in the blood by protein molecules known as lipoproteins. There are two of cholesterol parcels of cholesterol, categorized by the type of lipoprotein that transports it.
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol carried by this type of lipoprotein is referred to as “bad” cholesterol.
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) This parcel of cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol
What is the Role of Cholesterol in the Body?
Cholesterol has four essential functions in the body namely;
- It helps the body make certain hormones
- It enables to body to manufacture vitamin D
- It is a component of the digestive bile acids in the intestines
- It helps in maintenance of the cell walls
What Causes High Levels of Cholesterol?
High levels of cholesterol can be due to a number of factors, including your genetic composition, what you eat and the lifestyle choices you make as well as underlying conditions such as diabetes, hormone imbalances or high blood pressure.
Contrary to what people believe, eating high levels of saturated fat will not necessarily cause an increase in cholesterol. Such foods include beef, butter, veal and pork just to name but a few.
Also eating processed food with cocoa butter, palm or coconut oil may increase your risk to high cholesterol. Vegetable oil, chips, margarine and most cookies contain saturated fat as well.
Lifestyle Choices Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive intake of alcohol on a regular basis can raise your cholesterol. Cigarettes contain a compound known as acrolein that inhibits the transportation of HDL cholesterol to the liver, leading to atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by narrowing of arteries.
Lack of Physical Activity A regular exercise regimen promotes the production of HDL cholesterol while helping increase the size of particles that compose LDL, thereby making it less harmful.
Obesity You are at a greater risk of high cholesterol if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or more. Equally the likelihood of high cholesterol increases if you have a waist circumference of at least 40 inches (for men) and 35 inches (for women).
Other factors include:
- Underlying conditions such as liver or kidney disease, diabetes, and hypothyroidism
- Family history of early coronary heart disease (CHD)
- Age The older you are, the higher the risk
- Sex Incidences of high cholesterol tend to be greater in men than in women
How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally
You don’t have to spend lots of money trying to bring the cholesterol levels in your blood down, primarily because most causes are manageable. Here’s how to lower cholesterol naturally.
Watch What Goes Through Your Mouth
The quest to reduce cholesterol in the blood starts by eating healthy, cholesterol lowering foods. Get your fats right because some fats can lower cholesterol (such as the ones in avocado) while others can increase it. In other words, if you have to take fats, opt for “good” fat such as olive oil or the one found in fish and whole grains.
Make green leafy vegetables as such broccoli, beet greens, and celery as well as kale part of your diet. Also, eat foods with high fiber content including almonds, chia, peanuts oats and flax seeds.
Embark on a Regular Exercise Program
Repeated research has shown that at least half an hour of exercise every day can help lower the overall cholesterol levels and promote HDL cholesterol levels. Besides, exercises can come in handy when you’re trying to lose weight to reduce LDL cholesterol.
Be sure to maintain a healthy weight and keep checking your BMI on a regular basis.
Get Rid of Sweets and Processed Foods
Sweets and sugars, as well as other high glycemic foods, can raise your triglycerides and production of cholesterol. While these foods are addictive, they do more harm than good to your cholesterol. Eliminate them and eat fruits instead.
Reduce Your Caffeine, Alcohol Intake, and Smoking
Your beer pot belly may not be necessarily unhealthy. However, it could be an indication that you’re taking too much alcohol and are at greater risk of high cholesterol. Limit your intake of alcohol and learn to substitute it will healthier options such as water.
Also, cut your smoking because apart from increasing LDL cholesterol, it contributes to hardening of the arteries and could lead to stroke and other degenerative diseases.
Practice healthy management of stress. Find time to relax, meditate or join a yoga class. Whatever you do, ensure that you keep your stress levels in check.
Managing the levels of cholesterol is essential if you’re to lessen the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Equally important is getting familiar with how to lower cholesterol naturally to avoid unnecessary costs and the side effects that may come with the use of medications to control cholesterol.