Cholesterol woes

cholesterolThe term ‘cholesterol’ has a bad reputation and most of us fear falling prey to it. Yes, high levels are considered to be the cause for a host of illnesses, including heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes, but did you know that cholesterol is not the culprit. This lipid produced by the liver, is vital for many body processes, such as insulating nerve cells in the brain and providing structure for cells. The problem starts because of lower levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL). On the other hand, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) form deposits on the walls of the arteries, thus limiting blood flow and causing cardiovascular diseases.It must be noted that it is the higher LDL and lower HDL levels, and not the cholesterol they carry, that raise the chances of developing heart disease.

Dr Narender Pal Jain, Professor in Medicine, Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhianasays, “It is important to incorporate healthy changes in lifestyle and identify & reduce consumption of foods which mayincrease your risk of heart disease. And this is applicable to everyone with any body type. High cholesterol levels can result in heart ailments for any body type. Therefore,have your cholesterol checked regularly regardless of your weight, physical activity and diet.”

To reduce your bad cholesterol levels, start by limiting food with highlevels of saturated fat and trans fat. Many packaged foods, such as potato wafers and bakery products, which use refined grains such as maida (all-purpose flour), are low in fibre and contain trans fats. Additionally, reusing of cooking oil also increases trans fat levels. Again, frequent consumption red meat, whole milk products, ghee and coconut oil, can increase LDL as they are rich in saturated fats. Limit the intake and substitute them with fresh unprocessed foods.

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Increase your intake of soluble fiber. Both have heart-health benefits, but soluble fiber also helps lower your LDL levels. So include oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, and vegetables in your daily platter.

“Another very effective change you can make is to replace products high in saturated fats like butter with lower fat alternates likelow fat table spreads.Low fat table spreads are good for health,but, make sure that when selecting a table spread, choose the one that has 0% Cholesterol and 0 g trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label”, added Dr Jain.

To further enhance your efforts in improvingyour cholesterol to healthy levels include nuts in your diet, especially pistachio. A recent study by the Diabetes Foundation of India (DFI) and the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation found that pistachios have a low glycemic index, are naturally cholesterol free, and are source of protein, fibre and antioxidants. These properties make consumption of pistachios potentially useful for those at risk for obesity and heart disease.Other than these, opt for wholegrains, unprocessed food, fruits and vegetables daily in your daily diet. Include flaxseed, sunflower seeds and fatty fish in the diet to increase good cholesterol. Replace high-fat dairy products with low-fat milk products.

Daily exercise for atleast 30 minutes is also essential. A simple brisk walk daily, riding a bike, swimming or just playing your favourite sportis helpful. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a few sit-ups while watching television can make a difference.

Remember your health is your responsibility. Only you can take its best care.

Vinod Kumar

Health Journalist & writer. Editor of monthly health magazine "Health Spectrum."

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