Get the facts about Cholesterol
The other the day I had organized a camp along with one of the reputed labs at my clinic .The camp offered important blood investigations like Lipid profile, liver markers, kidney functions, blood sugar levels , vitamin b12 etc.. for a much affordable price ….and (hence) not surprisingly, I had a very good response. As I went through the reports of each of these patients, I saw there was a lot of curiosity in the patients regarding the lipid profile or the cholesterol values…. and so many were already on conventional medicines having accepted the side effects of the same. There were common questions asked like what are Triglycerides, LDL, HDL..,? What is the cause of the rise in these values especially when I don’t even have junk food or processed foo d…etc.. When I am not even overweight? What should I eat? What should I not eat? etc…
I realised that LIPIDS /Cholesterol has lots of facets to it .Apart from the values, understanding it in totality is what is required .Like there is no point being happy if a person is highly obese ,lets say weighing more than 100kgs and his reports show normal triglycerides.!!! And that is what we have to take care.. Normal reports does not mean that one is not prone for the risks or complications and that is what precisely I want to put across..
Hence it is important to understand CHOLESTEROL in a collective manner.
CHOLESTEROL (chole in Greek means bile and stereos means solid, stiff) , in most simple terms means ‘Fat/Lipid’ produced in the liver and the normal levels of which help in the proper functioning of the body. The Cholesterol is carried in the blood by molecules called lipoproteins containing lipid(fat) and protein.
They are of 3types :
• LDL- referred as bad cholesterol,
• HDL referred as good cholesterol and
• Triglycerides – these are the chemical forms in which most fat exists in the body, as well as in food. They are present in blood plasma. Triglycerides, in association with cholesterol, form the plasma lipids (blood fat).
Triglycerides in plasma originate either from fats in our food, or are made in the body from other energy sources, such as carbohydrates. Calories we consume, are not used immediately by our tissues are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. When your body needs energy and there is no food as an energy source, triglycerides will be released from fat cells and used as energy.
Functions of Cholestrol :
It is essential for production of sex hormones(androgens and estrogens)
Converts sunshine to Vitamin D,
Aids in the production of bile salts that help in digesting fat.
So, “NOT ALL FAT IS BAD”.
Healthier Fats : include monounsaturated fats(MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA).
MUFA is found in paenuts, olives,almonds ,peanut oil and also rice bran oil. PUFA contain omega-3(present in walnuts, flax seeds, fish and fish oils) and omega-6(found in sunflower, safflower (kardi) and soy bean oils) . These fats reduce the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood and increase the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. This helps to lower your risk of getting heart disease.
Unhealthy fats include saturated fats and Trans fats. Too much saturated and trans fat contributes to the build up of fatty material, called plaque, on the inside of your blood vessels (ARTHEROSCLEROSIS) and also causes hardening of the arteries and is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, blood pressure etc. These fats can increase LDL cholesterol in our blood that leads to the plaque. Lowering saturated fat in the diet will help to lower LDL cholesterol. So cut down on processed food, ready to cook food, junk food pizzas ,burgers, fries, re fried items ,biscuits .Transfats are commonly used by restaurants, fast food chains. Always see the trans fat value in any food product .
Now, sometimes we see, inspite of maintaining a healthy lifestyle the cholesterol levels are high.
So, there has to be something more that can cause the rise in Cholesterol values .What causes high cholesterol?
- Lifestyle causes
- Nutrition –as above mentioned
- Sedentary lifestyle - people who do not exercise and spend most of their time sitting/lying down have significantly higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower levels of HDL (good cholesterol).
- Obesity- people who are overweight/obese are much more likely to have higher LDL levels and lower HDL levels, compared to those who are of normal weight.
- Smoking – this can have quite a considerable effect on LDL levels.
- Alcohol – people who consume too much alcohol regularly, generally have much higher levels of LDL and much lower levels of HDL, compared to people who abstain or those who drink in moderation .
- 2.Treatable medical conditions: These medical conditions are known to cause LDL levels to rise. They are all conditions which can be controlled medically (with the help of your doctor, they do not need to be contributory factors):
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- High levels of triglycerides.
- Kidney diseases.
- Liver diseases.
- Under-active thyroid gland.
- 3.Risk factors which cannot be treated:
- Genes – people with close family members who have had either coronary heart disease or stroke have a greater risk of high blood cholesterol levels.
- Gender-Men have a greater chance of having high blood cholesterol levels than women.
- Age – as you get older your chances of developing atherosclerosis increase.
- Early menopause
- Certain ethnic groups – people from the Indian sub-continent (Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka) are more susceptible to having higher cholesterol levels, compared to other people.
Cholesterol is tested by taking a fasting (9-12hrs fasting without any food, liquids or pills ) blood sample . It gives information about total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.
|Total cholesterol||Less than 200mg/dl||200-239mg/dl||240mg/dl and above|
|HDL||60mg/dl and above is protective against heart disease||Less than 40mg/dl(Men) and less than 50 (Women)|
The next question arises, then what should I eat …HOW TO EAT FAT ??
- For a lean, toned healthy body with a shiny skin and lustrous hair ,eat wisely. Eat atleast 3meals.Its not enough to eat food cooked in oil. Include nuts, flax seeds, cheese or any dairy product in your diet. They can often make up a minimeal by itself.
- Use oil as cooking medium – preferably different kinds of oil.
- Myth about Ghee : Now Ghee is basically clarified butter obtained after milk is taken through a process of curdling and heating .Ghee has a short chain fatty acids .These are easy to digest and promote good health. As a general rule, animal fats are tough on the body ,while the ones found in dairy products are easily absorbed.
- To have an anti ageing face, firstly work at keeping your body weight to optimum. Also include healthy fats like nuts(walnuts, almonds, peanuts), paneer, fish, ghee. Including healthy fats provides your facial skin with moisture and also keeps your skin away from wrinkling.
- Limit deep fried stuff – Deep fried at home is better than outside, as at home, the oil is not reused and the soda and excess salt is missing .Eat immediately after frying and ya, if you think that removing the oil of these snacks using tissue paper or napkin will help, then it is not TRUE !!It does not remove any oil…so limit deepfrying – say to once a month.
I think , I have been able to give you some understanding about FATS OR CHOLESTROL .The side effects of few drugs on cholesterol , and the side effects of cholesterol lowering drugs shall be mentioned in my next article.