Cholesterol, the waxy, fat-like compound that can be produced by our body or be ingested thru food, is an essential part of all the cells in our body . It is used to make certain hormones and digest fats. This compound is carried via the blood with the help of molecules called lipoprotein. There are two types of lipoproteins- the low density lipoproteins (LDL) which take cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body and the high density lipoproteins (HDL) which transport cholesterol from the body tissues back to liver. By themselves, these two types of lipoproteins are not harmful, but it is the amount of LDL that you have to watch. LDLis known as the bad cholesterol because it combines with other substances to clog the arteries. For most people, an LDL score below 100 is healthy, but people with heart disease may need to aim even lower. Some doctors may recommend reducing LDL to 70 or lower.
High levels of LDL does not cause any symptoms but it can cause damage deep within the body. Over time, too much cholesterol may lead to a buildup of plaque inside the arteries and can trigger heart disease. The good news is high cholesterol is simple to detect. A simple blood test known as a fasting lipoprotein profile can be done. It measures the different forms of cholesterol that are circulating in your blood after you avoid eating for nine to 12 hours. The results show your levels of “bad” cholesterol, “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides.
You also don’t need an elaborate and very restrictive diet to lower your LDL count. In fact, you might not know it but food that can lower LDL levels may just be around the corner. Here are some of the many food items that can lower your LDL count:
1. Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods such as as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes. Fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 6 grams of fiber.
2. Apples, grapes, strawberries and citrus fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL. Eating a single serving of fruit will add about 4 more grams of fiber.
3. Walnuts, almonds and other nuts can reduce blood cholesterol because they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. A handful a day will do, as nuts are high in caloric content. Just make sure the nuts you eat aren’t salted or coated with sugar.
4. Fish (even the fatty ones) provides high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. People who have history of heart diseases are advised to increase their consumption of fatty fish, hence omega-3 fatty acids because it can reduce the risk of sudden death.The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in: mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon, and halibut. Bake or grill the fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats
5. If you are fond fried foods, try substituting olive oil in place of other fats in your diet. Saute vegetables with it, add it to a marinade or mix it with vinegar as a salad dressing. You can also use olive oil as a substitute for butter when basting meat or as a dip for bread. Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol but leave your “good” (HDL) cholesterol untouched. To fully enjoy olive oil’s health benefits, choose extra-virgin olive oil thas this is less processed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants. Don’t be fooled into using light or pomace oil as they more processed.
6. Dark chocolates contain plant sterols and cocoa flavanols have been shown to reduce cholesterol by 2-5% by inhibiting absorption of cholesterol, and would not have a large effect if you consumed little or no cholesterol.
7. Consuming 25 grams of soybeans and foods made from them ( like tofu and soy milk) a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%. Drink soy milk isntead of full-fat milk as it is a major source of cholesterol.
It takes years for high cholesterol to clog the arteries with plaque but it wouldn’t hurt to be cholesterol conscious even while you’re young. People older than 20 should have their cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. You mayneed to have done more often if you have high risk of developing high cholesterol count. It’s best to cosult your doctor specially if you have a family history of high cholesterol or if you are overweight