Cholesterol is a type of fat or a waxy substance found in the blood. It is biosynthesized by all animal cells. Cholesterol is an essential requirement that is produced in the liver and has four primary functions, without which we cannot survive.
- contributing to the structure of cell walls
- creating digestive bile acids in the intestine
- enabling the body to produce Vitamin D
- empowering the body to make certain hormones
Limiting cholesterol levels is important as it might get absorbed in the blood vessels causing them to stiffen, narrow down and if they get clogged it may lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol cannot dissolve in the blood so it unites with proteins to make its way through the bloodstream. The two traveling together are called lipoproteins.
Based on what the lipoprotein carries, the two main types of cholesterol are:
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) – Often referred to as bad cholesterol, are the ones that carry cholesterol from the liver to the bloodstream where they might accumulate in the walls of blood vessels creating blockages. These put your heart at risk.
High-density proteins (HDL) – Often referred to as good cholesterol, are the ones that carry cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver where they get broken down.
There are certain factors responsible for increasing the risk of bad cholesterol listed below:
- Obesity – Being overweight is a major concern.
- Poor Diet – Foods having saturated fats and transfats along with red meat and full-fat dairy products increase cholesterol levels.
- Inactivity or lack of physical exercise – Exercise boosts up the good cholesterol. If there is a lack of exercise, the build up of LDL rises, thus increasing the risk.
- Diabetes – Increased blood sugar levels damage the lining of the arteries. Moreover, they add to scoring up very-low-density proteins (VLDL).
- Medicines – Some medicines including steroids, blood pressure medicines as well as HIV/AIDS medicines might raise the LDL levels.
- Smoking – The walls of blood vessels get damaged due to cigarette smoking. Thus, increasing the chance of accumulation of fatty deposits.
Apart from the factors that can be controlled, some are hard to keep a check on.
- Age – With age the functioning of organs gets affected. Thus, the liver loses its ability to remove LDL cholesterol gradually. Menopause in women also effects.
- Genetic buildup – This might restrict the cells from removing LDL cholesterol from the blood efficiently. It also adds to the chances of liver producing excess cholesterol.
Cholesterol might not be detected based on symptoms. It can only be checked through a blood test.
Cholesterol accumulation in the blood vessels can reduce the blood flow through the arteries generating certain complications such as-
- Chest pain – When coronary arteries (ones which supply blood to the heart) get affected, angina or other symptoms related to it might be observed.
- Heart Attack- At times, the accumulated deposits in the blood vessels break apart and plug an artery. In case the so formed plug restricts the blood from reaching the heart, chances of getting a heart attack is high.
- Stroke- A similar impact of the plug blocking the flow of blood to the brain might result in a stroke.
Having Cholesterol issue can cause complications in major areas of your body. Learn about the effects of cholesterol on the body
Home Remedies for Cholesterol
- Astragalus has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The element is considered to guard the body against stress (a major cause for raising cholesterol), thus keeping a check on cholesterol level. Astragalus Polysaccharides (APS) lessens plasma cholesterol by restraining intestinal cholesterol absorption as well as increases bile acid excretion.
2. Flaxseeds carry high levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. It has proved to lower LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides levels especially among people with high cholesterol levels and postmenopausal women.
3. Garlic: This element contains a high concentration of allicin (a sulfur-containing compound), recognized for reducing total and LDL cholesterol significantly. Though it is commonly used in Indian cooking, raw garlic works better than cooked ones. Consuming 1/2 to 1 garlic clove daily can help reduce your cholesterol level.
4. Plant sterols and stanols – Present in nuts, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and grains. These substances help restrict the intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Hence, can effectively reduce bad cholesterol levels (LDL) in your blood.
5. Green tea – It is rich in polyphenols. Of the infinite health benefits, is its efficiency of lowering LDL Cholesterol as well as increasing HDL Cholesterol. The polyphenols of tea not only restrict cholesterol absorption in intestines but also help discard it.
6. Coriander seeds – Antioxidants help bring down cholesterol levels, found in abundance in Coriander seeds. Cholesterol levels can be controlled by simply boiling these seeds in water, straining, and then drinking it. Loaded with essential vitamins such as Vitamin A plus beta-carotene, folic acid & vitamin C these are used to treat several ailments.
7. Psyllium husk is a rich source of soluble fiber. Thus, exceptionally beneficial in lowering LDL cholesterol. Just a spoon of this husk daily is sufficient to keep a check.
8. Fenugreek – A spoon of fenugreek to your daily intake is more than enough. The accumulated cholesterol from the body is easily eliminated due to the Saponins found in fenugreek. Furthermore, its fiber helps reduce the synthesis in the liver.
9. Amla – The essential amino acids and antioxidants in Amla lower the cholesterol levels. Also, protect against atherosclerosis and CAD. Though not so good in taste, it can be consumed as fresh fruit, else 1tsp of its powder can be taken with a glass of lukewarm water.
10. Turmeric – Adding turmeric to the curries helps in reducing bad cholesterol by cutting down the plaque (accumulated cholesterol) on the walls of the arteries. Having half a tsp of turmeric with warm water first thing in the morning or turmeric milk at bedtime is the best way to reduce bad cholesterol.
11. Fish – Omega-3 fatty acids promote the reduction of cholesterol levels. Also, the chances of incurring cardiovascular disease. Including fish in the meals is therefore beneficial as they are a rich source of these fatty acids. Vegetarians can opt for fish oil tablets.
12. Soybeans – Soybeans or soy proteins have comparatively proved better as a check on coronary heart disease. They effectively lower LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Soy protein sources include tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy yogurt, and some more food products made from soybeans.
- Opt for a healthy, low salt diet.
- Lay emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Maintain a healthy weight and lose out on the extra pounds.
- Add exercise to your routine.
- Manage stress.
- Quit smoking and alcohol.
- On increasing your fiber intake, consume plenty of fluids.
- Garlic or its supplements should not be used before surgery or with blood-thinning drugs as it might increase bleeding and blood clotting time.
- High in soluble fiber foods such as oatmeal, beans, apples, etc. keep your body from assimilating cholesterol.
- Trans Fats found in fried foods, cakes, pizza, cookies, etc. raise your LDL and lower your HDL. Thus, increasing the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
- Exercising boosts HDL and improves LDL, along with triglycerides.
- Substituting red meat (has plenty of saturated fats) with fish (contains omega-3 fatty acids) will reduce your cholesterol levels.