How to lower cholesterol is one of the major concerns for Indians living abroad, especially those keen to lose weight. In fact, high cholesterol is one of the common health issues for NRIs and Indians worldwide.
The problem is also common among Americans. According to a media release by Proctor and Gamble, more than 102 million Americans have cholesterol levels that are considered borderline high-risk.
While cholesterol can lead to many illnesses, you can take some timely steps to control cholesterol. There are some guaranteed ways to lower cholesterol, as long as you are committed to lead a healthy life.
But before we look at the guaranteed ways to lower cholesterol, we must first understand what is cholesterol.
What is cholesterol
Every person has a waxy substance in many parts of their body. This is cholesterol. Not all cholesterol is bad. Not all cholesterol is fat. There are two types of cholesterol – HDL or good cholesterol, and LDL or bad cholesterol.
It is the Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) which is a cause of concern as it builds up in the arteries and causes heart disease. On the other hand, High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), or the good cholesterol, protects against heart attack.
HDL in fact cleanses our system by removing cholesterol from the arteries and back to the liver where it’s passed from the body. As you can see when you read this article, you can maintain healthy levels of cholesterol with these guaranteed yet simple changes to lifestyle.
Remember, LDL cholesterol is bad for health, but HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol is not only good but is also essential for your health. Don’t assume that high cholesterol is bad for you, like high blood pressure. Please get your cholesterol checked regularly, and learn how to interpret the cholesterol numbers. Keep a record of your cholesterol levels.
Why cholesterol is bad for health?
Cholesterol associates with triglycerides to form plasma lipids. Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body, says American Heart Association. “Triglycerides in plasma are derived from fats eaten in foods or made in the body from other energy sources like carbohydrates. Calories ingested in a meal and not used immediately by tissues are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored.
“Hormones regulate the release of triglycerides from fat tissue so they meet the body’s needs for energy between meals.” AHA says.
“Excess triglycerides in plasma is called hypertriglyceridemia. It’s linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people.”
Now let’s look at the easy ways of lowering cholesterol fast. These steps are recommended by Metamucil and Dr. Michael Roizen, Chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Roizen recommends the use of a pedometer and walking or running more every day. “Grab a pedometer and watch the numbers roll as you make simple changes for your health and take the stairs, walk to work, or stroll around the neighbourhood to increase your physical activity for better heart health.
Pedometer can be a great motivator. “Tracking your progress throughout the day can be great inspiration to keep going, and walking is a simple and easy type of exercise to help lower cholesterol!
Get an exercise buddy
One of the main reasons why people fail to lose weight is lack of motivation. Dr Roizen appreciates that a healthy lifestyle requires motivation, encouragement and a friend to lean on.
“Grab an exercise buddy and support each other in the challenge to lower your cholesterol.”
You can go on long walks with your friend or partner. Make sure you encourage each other to try new types of physical activity to get the heart pumping and to keep cholesterol levels down! This togetherness not only helps physically but also creates a positive mental energy.
“Enjoy each other’s company and laugh – reduced levels of stress will help your heart too!”
No, we are not recommending eating more, or eating junk food. We are just suggesting eating the right food. Increasing the intake of fiber can help you lower cholesterol. Of course, not all fiber is good. Viscous soluble fiber like psyllium fiber, the natural dietary fiber found in Metamucil, is proven to help lower total and “lousy” LDL cholesterol because it forms a thick gel that traps and helps remove some cholesterol, bile acids and waste in the gut.
“This is why I recommend my patients supplement low fat, low cholesterol diets with 7 grams of soluble fiber from psyllium daily.”
When fat is good
Avoid fatty food but there is one thing that’s good for you – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid. DHA is good for your heart. It improves heart function and helps lower Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL).
It also raises the levels of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), or the ‘healthy’ cholesterol. Some of the popular sources of DHA are salmon, sardines and tuna. But if you don’t like seafood, don’t panic “Try fish oil supplements, or if you don’t like fishy taste, get them from vegetarian supplements made from algal DHA.”
Avoid dangerous foods
They say: you are what you eat. Be aware of what you are eating. Read food literature and familiarise yourself with what goes in your bread and pasta.
“Get to know your ingredients and read the nutrition labels thoroughly,” says Dr Roizen.
Do you know that there are hidden sugars and unhealthy ingredients in your food that can increase your weight, which can lead to high cholesterol. Avoid all foods that contain high levels of cholesterol, saturated fat and hidden sources of sugar such as high fructose corn syrup, some dextrins, or evaporated cane juice.
How does cholesterol affect health?
Lowering your cholesterol is the most important thing you can do to promote overall heart health. Too much cholesterol can result in atherosclerosis, which is when fat and cholesterol crowd the walls of the arteries,preventing adequate blood flow to parts of the body like the heart and brain, and resulting in signs and symptoms of heart disease, such as angina and heart attack
Whether you are 35 or 65, it is never too early or too late to start to reduce the risk of heart disease.
How does fiber help heart?
Certain kinds of fiber lower cholesterol because they form a thick gel that traps and helps remove some cholesterol, bile acid and waste. Be sure to consume lots of soluble fiber, like beans, oats, barley or fruits. Most Americans only get 10 to 15 grams of fiber per day through their normal diet vs. the recommended 20 to 35 grams.