20 things to know about cholesterol
Cholesterol is a type of fat produced by the liver. It’s not bad for your health to have cholesterol in your body. However, it is bad when cholesterol levels become too high, which is a condition known as hypercholesterolemia. The food we eat every day significantly influences our cholesterol levels. A person with a diet that’s high in fat ( is more at risk of hypercholesterolemia. Read on to find out more about cholesterol.
What is bad cholesterol?
Low-density lipoprotein is called “bad” cholesterol. In large amounts, it accumulates on the inner walls of the arteries. Too much bad cholesterol can cause plaque buildups that block the arteries, which can be dangerous for your health.
What is good cholesterol?
Good cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein, is aptly named. It carries the bad cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s flushed from the body.
What are the health risks of having too much bad cholesterol in the blood?
A high level of bad cholesterol in the body increases the chances of an artery becoming completely blocked. If that happens, there is a risk of heart attack (if the clogged artery carries blood to the heart) or stroke (if the clogged artery supplies blood to the brain)—both of which can be fatal.
What are the symptoms associated with bad cholesterol?
Unlike many illnesses, there are usually no symptoms associated with hypercholesterolemia. Some people may experience pain in their calves if the arteries in that part of the body have narrowed. In most cases, though, hypercholesterolemia is devoid of symptoms. Before prescribing medicine to treat this health problem, a doctor must normally perform a blood test.
Foods high in cholesterol: Red meat
Like other foods that are high in fat, red meat tends to increase the level of bad cholesterol in the blood. However, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this is not the case for lean meat; only fatty meats pose a problem. It’s always preferable to opt for meat substitutes like tofu, lentils, legumes, and nuts, as these foods are low in cholesterol.
Food high in cholesterol: Butter
Buttered toast is delicious, but unfortunately, butter raises levels of bad cholesterol in the body. One tablespoon of butter contains 31 milligrams of cholesterol. That’s 10 percent of the daily recommended intake. When you’re preparing a meal, it’s better to use another fat, like olive oil or canola oil. Margarine is not recommended, as it’s often high in saturated fat. To prepare dishes that are even lower in fat, try steaming or oven-cooking your food instead of frying it.
Food high in cholesterol: Sausages
Depending on the type (Italian sausage, hot dog sausage, etc.), sausages can contain more than 90 milligrams (0.003 ounce) of cholesterol per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). You should therefore cut them from your diet. If you’re a sausage fan, you can try tofu sausages or other types of veggie dogs instead.
Food high in cholesterol: Pastries
They may be your favourite breakfast indulgence, but pastries are among the foods that contain the most cholesterol. It’s better to start the morning with low-fat options like whole-grain, fibre-rich cereals.
Food high in cholesterol: Alcohol
Having a drink now and then won’t increase your cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that drinking one glass of red wine per day can actually boost levels of good cholesterol in the body. It becomes dangerous for your health, however, when you have several alcoholic drinks every day. In fact, drinking a lot of alcohol elevates your triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are similar to cholesterol in that both are made of fat and are found in the blood.
Food high in cholesterol: Fast food
A typical fast food meal of a hamburger and fries contains an enormous amount of cholesterol. It’s even worse when the hamburger has a double patty, bacon, cheese, and a sauce loaded with calories. Limit your intake of junk food if you don’t want your cholesterol levels to skyrocket. And if you must get your fix, go for salads and non-breaded chicken—and hold the sauce!
Food high in cholesterol: Cheese
Anyone watching their cholesterol should reduce their consumption of cheese, which contains a lot of it. That said, as with most foods, it’s excessive consumption that is bad for your health. Plus, not all cheeses have the same cholesterol content. Goat cheese, for example, has much less than cheddar. So, be careful!
Food high in cholesterol: Shrimp
Don’t be fooled by their small size—shrimp are full of cholesterol. In just 100 grams (3.5 ounces), there are 189 milligrams (0.007 ounce) of cholesterol, according to the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA). That’s more than 60 percent of the daily recommended intake. However, recent studies have shown that shrimp are low in saturated fat, as long as it’s not fried or dipped in garlic butter. Still, steamed fish, like salmon, is a better option. Salmon is also said to reduce bad cholesterol.
What are the recommended cholesterol levels?
Normally, overall cholesterol levels should not exceed 5.2 millimoles per litre (200 milligrams per decilitre). People who have diabetes, have had a heart attack, or have heart disease must maintain lower cholesterol levels, however.
Does a sedentary lifestyle contribute to cholesterol levels?
It’s not only our diet that elevates cholesterol levels in the blood. Several studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest risk factors. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical exercise every day helps reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. This doesn’t have to be intense physical activity—the important thing is to get moving. Also read: 20 ways exercise affects your health
Does gender make a difference to cholesterol levels?
Men need to control their cholesterol levels at an earlier age than women. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, women who have not yet reached menopause have lower cholesterol levels than men of the same age.
Are smokers at a higher risk of developing bad cholesterol?
In addition to increasing the risk of lung cancer and heart disease, tobacco is known to diminish levels of good cholesterol in the blood. It’s not only smokers who are affected by the side effects of cigarettes. People who regularly come into contact with cigarette smoke are also at risk. The good news is that most people who quit smoking for good see their good cholesterol levels rise shortly afterward.
Foods to eat for good cholesterol: Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are major sources of vitamins and fibre, and they help reduce bad cholesterol. Apples are especially good for this, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal.
Foods to eat for good cholesterol: Fatty fish
Despite what you may think, fatty fish like salmon and sardines are recommended for anyone trying to fight bad cholesterol. The omega-3 fatty acids in these fish could help lower triglyceride levels significantly.
Foods to eat for good cholesterol: Nuts
Nuts contain phytosterols, which fight bad cholesterol. In other words, eating a small quantity every day (because nuts are high in calories) helps balance cholesterol levels.
Treatment: Which medications can you take to fight cholesterol?
Statins are among the medications most often prescribed to lower levels of bad cholesterol. Common side effects include headache, digestive issues, and muscle pain. However, medication is not the magic solution. A lifestyle change is what really makes a difference. Without it, medication won’t help much.