How to manage high cholesterol levels?

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Our body is the vehicle upon which human civilization rests. Statistics across the world tell us that heart disease is one of the leading causes of mortality. All of these link back to the imbalance of cholesterol levels in our blood.
A wax-like substance that is insoluble in blood, cholesterol is produced by the liver and transported by blood to assist in various bodily functions like coating the cell membrane, producing bile and hormones.The human body pivots around the golden rule of ‘moderation’ – while cholesterol in some amount is indispensable for the smooth functioning of our body, higher levels are liable to cause severe health issues like coronary heart disease. The ‘excess’ cholesterol that is found in the human body usually comes from food rich in saturated fats. While unsaturated (mono- and poly-) fats, found in vegetables and some fish, are healthy for the body, it is saturated fats, mostly found in animal meat and dairy products, and trans fats or artificially produced fatty acids found in fried food, that lower the ‘good’ (high density lipoprotein) and spike the ‘bad’ cholesterol (low density lipoprotein), leading to blockage of arteries limiting flow of blood.
  • Overconsumption of junk food is a major concern today. Identifying the sources of harmful fats is the first step towards effectively managing cholesterol level in our body. It is important to read the list of ingredients listed on every product label and educate oneself about technical terms like Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO) found in processed foods and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) found in dairy products.
  • Eating a balanced diet rich in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats increases HDL levels and counters the ill-effects of LDL. Such a diet would typically include whole grains like oats, wheat, barley, millet, brown rice and quinoa, topped with vegetables, legumes, avocados, fruits, nuts and olives. In oils, olive and canola are the healthier options. Omega 3 includes fatty seafood like salmon, mackerel and types of tuna, and Omega 6, found in foods like walnuts, tofu and avocado oil, are essential for brain development. Both are poly-unsaturated fats crucial for our healthy sustenance.
  • Diseases are our body’s distress signals. High cholesterol is indicative of failing heart health, and it is a sign to abandon unhealthy food habits like eating fast food, pastries, cookies, biscuits and white bread which are made from saturated and trans fats. These also disrupt the normal body weight, triggering the gut and causing long-term health issues. Smoking also increases the build-up of LDL in blood, causing deposits of plaque to collect inside arteries, preventing the flow of blood.
  • Since imbalance of cholesterol levels appears generally in middle age, our bodies are already afflicted by other age-related diseases. Therefore, intense workouts are difficult to perform. Low intensity exercises like light aerobics, brisk walking short distances, swimming, cycling, hot yoga— anything that allows you to sweat and burn calories, are good alternatives to choose from.
  • In case a Lipid profile test reveals dangerously high levels of cholesterol, the doctor starts the treatment with the necessary medication.

For the medicine and treatment to have lasting effects, the patient must adopt a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet as well.

(Author: Ms. Shivani Bajwa, Functional Medicine and Health Expert)

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