What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance found in your body cells. It is produced by the liver and is also present in animal foods such as meat, poultry, and dairy products. Cholesterol has important functions in the body but excess cholesterol poses a risk for heart diseases.
LDL and HDL
LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. It is called ‘bad cholesterol’ because high LDL levels lead to the accumulation of cholesterol in arteries.
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to the liver. Therefore, it is called ‘good cholesterol’. Foods such as beans and legumes, whole grains fruits, fatty fish, flaxseeds, nuts are considered HDL friendly foods.
What happens when there is excess LDL in the body?
The oxidation of LDL by free radicals leads to the formation of oxidized LDL. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are formed as a result of normal metabolism, disease or exposure to pollution. The oxidized LDL produces inflammation in the surrounding tissues. This leads to disease and organ damage. In particular, oxidized LDL increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The oxidized LDL interrupts the blood supply in arteries such as the carotid arteries, the coronary arteries, or the arteries that supply your legs and arms with blood resulting in a variety of health conditions, including coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, or cerebrovascular disease.
Factors that increase the levels of oxidized LDL are:
- High trans fat consumption
- Smoking and alcohol
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome, which is often a precursor of diabetes
- Exposure to toxins through pollution and preservatives
- A blood test cannot measure the levels of oxidized LDL in your body but to prevent its rise, you should maintain the levels of HDL and LDL.
- to decrease LDL levels. An LDL level of less than 100mg/dl is considered optimal for heart health. Keep your HDL levels more than 40 mg/dl. A reading of less than 40 mg/dl is considered a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Trans fat is found in bakery items such as pastries, cookies, etc. so stay away from such food items. Deep-fried foods, potato chips should also be excluded from the diet
- Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and neutralize the free radicals in the body. This may help to reduce the oxidation of LDL.
- A person with metabolic syndrome should aim to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. You can do this by losing weight, eating healthy, and exercising.
Note: Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to reduce the effects of oxidized LDL. Consult a physician for medical management of the situation if required.