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What Leads to High Levels Of Cholesterol And What Can You Do Control Them?

Image for representation. (Reuters)

Image for representation. (Reuters)

Control the bad cholesterol levels in your body by limiting the foods high in saturated fats such as cheese, fatty meats and sugary desserts.

Over the years, cholesterol has gotten a really bad reputation. You hear the word and your automatic response is to run for the hill. But cholesterol is more complex than that.

Cholesterol is a chemical compound which is required by the body as a building block to create the outer layer of the cells and for hormones like estrogen and testosterone as well. It is a wax-like substance, 80% of which is produced by the liver.

Once you consume a meal, the cholesterol present in your food is absorbed from the small intestine and then metabolized and stored in the liver. Any extra cholesterol (than what is required) consumed would build up inside the walls of the arteries in the form of plaque and make them narrow. It is recommended to limit dietary cholesterol as much as possible.

What are the types of cholesterol?

Cholesterol is transported from one cell to the other with the help of lipoproteins.

Cholesterol can be divided into three types:

1. LDL: Low-density lipoprotein

It is also called bad cholesterol as it leads to the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries.

2. VLDL: Very low-density lipoproteins

Just like LDL, they are associated with plaque deposition in the arteries.

3. HDL: High-density lipoprotein

It is also called good cholesterol as it acts as a scavenger which carries the LDL cholesterol away from the arteries back to the liver. The liver then breaks down the bad cholesterol and throws it out of the body.

Excess fat and energy are stored in the body in the form of triglycerides, another kind of lipid. High triglyceride levels are associated with increased risk of heart diseases and stroke.

Why is high cholesterol harmful to the body?

High levels of cholesterol are associated with various deadly diseases. Cholesterol converts into plaque and then builds up within the arteries of different organs. This decreases the blood flow to these organs, affecting their function. Diseases like atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries leading to heart attacks), transient ischemic attack or stroke (reduced blood supply to the brain due to narrowed small arteries in the brain or blocked carotid arteries in the neck) and peripheral artery disease (narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the legs) are caused due to high levels of cholesterol in the body. High cholesterol can also cause plaque buildup in mesenteric arteries that supply blood to the intestines and in the renal arteries that supply to the kidneys.

How is cholesterol increased in the body?

Our body makes enough cholesterol required by the body and most of what we eat is all extra. However, the reasons for high cholesterol can be:

  • Genes: If high cholesterol runs in your family, then you might suffer from it as well.

  • Medications: Some medications like birth control pills and diuretics can increase the levels of cholesterol in the body.

  • Obesity: Obesity influences the liver to increase the levels of cholesterol in the body.

  • Diet: Oily, fatty foods rich in saturated and trans fats can raise cholesterol levels.

  • Smoking and alcohol: Both of these things decrease the level of HDL and increase the level of LDL in the body.

How can you control your cholesterol levels?

You can control the bad cholesterol levels in your body by limiting the foods high in saturated fats such as cheese, fatty meats and sugary desserts. You can instead switch to foods high in fibre, such as oatmeal, beans, and green vegetables. You may include unsaturated healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds in your diet.

You should exercise daily to prevent obesity, which wouldn’t only increase your bad cholesterol levels but also the risk of heart disease and stroke. According to studies, a person should do half an hour of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, every day.

You should quit smoking, as smoking narrows the blood vessels, thus increasing the risk of heart diseases. Limit your alcohol consumption, as it can raise the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your body.

For more information, read our article on High Cholesterol.

Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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first published:June 19, 2020, 16:39 IST