Many of us have questions about how to control and reduce cholesterol. But before we answer that question, let us understand what cholesterol exactly stands for. Starting with a very basic definition- Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all the cells in your body. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods.
After reading this definition a genuine question pops up in our head that is cholesterol always bad for health? Well, the answer is no. There are two main two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). (Lipoproteins are made of fat and protein, and serve as vehicles for your cholesterol to travel through the blood.)
Before we understand which cholesterol is good cholesterol and which cholesterol is bad cholesterol let us understand their functions and their impact.
HDL (High-density Lipoprotein )clears from the body via the liver. HDL may therefore prevent the buildup of plaque, protect your arteries, and protect you from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. It is considered the “good” cholesterol, and higher levels are better.
The optimum level of HDL- A good goal to aim for is higher than 55 mg/dL for women and 45 mg/dL for men. LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol to your arteries, where it may collect in the vessel walls and contribute to plaque formation, known as atherosclerosis. This can lead to decreased blood flow to the heart muscle (coronary artery disease), leg muscles (peripheral artery disease), or abrupt closure of an artery in the heart or brain, leading to a heart attack or stroke. For LDL, the lower the number the better it is.
Optimum level of LDL- A good goal to keep in mind is less than 130 mg/dL if you don’t have atherosclerotic disease or diabetes. It should be no more than 100 mg/dL, or even 70mg/dL, if you have any of those conditions or high total cholesterol.
In a summarised sense, we can say that LDL cholesterol should be as minimum as possible.
Diet to reduce LDL cholesterol
Avoid unhealthy fat, Foods high in (unhealthy) saturated fats include:
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Full fat dairy products (such as milk, cream, cheese, and yogurt)
- Deep-fried fast foods
- Processed foods (such as biscuits and pastries)
- Takeaway foods (such as hamburgers and pizza)
- Coconut oil
- Foods high in (unhealthy) Trans fats include:
- Deep-fried foods
- Baked goods (such as pies, pastries, cakes, and biscuits)
Prefer food with healthy fats
Foods high in (healthy) polyunsaturated fats include:
- Margarine spreads and oils such as sunflower, soybean, and safflower
- Oily fish
- Some nuts and seeds
- Foods high in (healthy) monounsaturated fats include:
- Margarine spreads and oils (such as olive, canola, and peanut)
- Some nuts
- Prefer food with high dietary fibers-
- Legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils, soybeans)
- Wholegrain, cereals, and foods (for example, oats and barley)
- Prefer more vegetables such as carrot, broccoli, and peas which contain a good amount of fiber.
If your knees are fine and you don’t have any pain in your legs then one of the best options is cycling. Scientists reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association that people who biked to work were less likely to develop high cholesterol than those who didn’t.
People often suggest walking briskly for low cholesterol levels it is the fact that it works but if you have the option to swim then you must go swimming as swimming is probably the most joint-saving aerobic exercise you can do. In a 2010 study, researchers compared swimming with walking in women aged 50 to 70 years. They found that swimming improved body weight, body fat distribution, and LDL cholesterol levels better than walking did.
When the above-mentioned lifestyle changes fail to work then you may go for medication. Generally, doctors prescribe a statin. These are usually the first type of drug that doctors prescribe to lower LDL. They also lower triglycerides, which are another type of blood fat, and mildly raise your “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Fluvastatin (Lescol)
- Pitavastatin (Livalo)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol)
- Rosuvastatin calcium (Crestor)
- Simvastatin (Zocor)
Although medication works it should be the last preference as in the case of high cholesterol lifestyle changes matters the most. Even after medication, one must continue with the above-mentioned diet & exercises/ yoga. Surya Namaskar would help a lot if you are looking to start yoga as a practice.