Elevated cholesterol levels are one of the leading causes of heart diseases and deaths worldwide. Remember, our physician always tells us to maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels. It is always recommended that HDL levels should be high, LDL and VLDL should be low.
These are the types of cholesterol. All cholesterols are not bad, some are good and some are bad. HDL signifies high-density lipoprotein which is good cholesterol for our body. It carries cholesterol away from the vessels to the liver for excretion. On the other hand, LDL (low- density lipoprotein) and VLDL (very low -density lipoprotein) are bad for our heart as they promote the deposition of cholesterol across heart blood vessels which results in narrowing of the arteries. Prolonged deposition results in a disease called atherosclerosis, leading to a stroke. Therefore, it is always better to maintain a high HDL to LDL ratio and overall cholesterol levels should be less than 200 mg/dL.
The good news is that it is easy to bring down high cholesterol levels. With some dietary and lifestyle modifications, one can easily lead a healthy and happier life without getting worried of developing heart diseases. Let’s discuss them one by one.
- Maintain an active lifestyle - Being active is the key staying fit and healthy. A regular exercise schedule can improve your cholesterol levels. It prevents the deposition of unwanted fat in our body, boost metabolic rate and can also help raise the HDL levels.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption - Studies have shown that smoking affects our blood and lung circulation. It also increases the risk of heart diseases. Due to the presence of tobacco and nicotine, smokers are unable to transport cholesterol to the liver for elimination. This, in turn, contributes to the development of clogged arteries resulting in a stroke. Similarly, excess alcohol consumption also affects our heart because cholesterol is synthesized in the liver and excess alcohol can lead to fatty liver disease and liver cirrhosis.
- Choose healthy fats - Dietary fats are required by our body. We should focus on good fats in the form of MUFA, PUFA instead of trans fats. Trans fats are made by the process of hydrogenation and primarily found in foods like pastries, cakes, cookies, spreads, etc. Hence before buying any food product, always check for trans fat content and avoid foods containing partially hydrolysed oil/fat. Avoid consumption of fried foods, packaged, ready-to-eat and refined or maida based foods. Instead, choose healthy fats which are capable of increasing HDL levels and promotes overall health. Some of the foods which should be included in the diet to manage cholesterol levels are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardine; eggs, avocados, olives, olive oil, mustard oil, walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds. These foods are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which reduces inflammation and improves our heart health. They reduce the risk of developing metabolic diseases like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.
- Fibre- rich diet - Dietary fibre is an essential part of our diet. One should aim to consume at least 35-40 grams of dietary fibre per day. Soluble fibre primarily helps in lowering bad cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre promotes the growth of microbiota in our gut called probiotics. These healthy bacterias reduce the levels of LDL and VLDL in our body. Additionally, soluble fibre also helps manage blood sugar levels, improves digestive health and alleviates issues like constipation, bloating, acidity, etc. Aim to include fibre rich foods in the diet like berries, oatmeal, psyllium husk, chicory, plum, apple, peach, guava, banana, beans, whole grains, peas, legumes, lentils, orange and chia seeds.
- Choose specific cholesterol-lowering foods/supplements - Several clinical trials have shown certain foods effective in reducing bad cholesterol levels like garlic, dark green leafy vegetables, soy foods, brinjal, okra, carrots, green tea, dark chocolate, fish oil supplements, CoQ10 supplements and Tri Fibre.
To conclude, cholesterol has certain important functions to play in our body. But emphasis should be given on foods which helps boost HDL levels and not LDL or VLDL. Good cholesterol levels protect us from heart diseases and strokes which might prove fatal. Diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains not only keeps cholesterol in check but also keeps our arteries flexible, reduces plaque formation and keeps us healthy. If you have an imbalanced cholesterol profile, follow the tips mentioned above to enjoy a healthy life.