Often seen as harmful to health, the truth is that the cholesterol it is a fatty substance (fat) natural and essential for the proper functioning of the organism, without which we would not exist. What happens, to cause confusion, is that there is a type of cholesterol that is good and another that is bad.
But deep down, cholesterol is nothing more than a component of cell membranes that contributes to the formation of bile acids and some hormones – such as vitamin D, estrogen, testosterone and cortisol. These hormones, in turn, help the body digest fat.
Contrary to what most people think, this fat is not only present in the heart, but also in the brain, intestines, skin, muscles, nerves and even in the liver. The negative effects of bad cholesterol, the villain of our story, are associated with an increase in its level in the circulating blood.
Cholesterol: from A to Z
Cholesterol is obtained from foods such as dairy products, fatty meats and eggs. However, much of this fat is produced in the liver. It is also synthesized from foods rich in saturated and trans fats.
Some diseases such as diabetes and in certain people with a family history of hypercholesterolemia with a marked genetic factor, can contribute to abnormal levels of this fat.
Some risk factors
High cholesterol can be controlled by each of us. All you have to do is take some action and modify your routines a little in order to maintain a healthy life.
If you have family members with high cholesterol levels, it could be a risk factor. If this is your case, check with your doctor to find out how your situation is.
sex and age
From puberty to menopause, women are more likely to have a normal or even low cholesterol level. However, after menopause, levels tend to increase compared to the values shown by men.
lack of physical exercise
The practice of physical exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle, because it triggers in us, natural mechanisms that allow greater expenditure of fat by the body. For this same reason, physical inactivity is a factor that increases the risk of high cholesterol.
The fact of being a smoker, together with high cholesterol values, also contributes to the accumulation of fat in the arteries, forming plaques that often cause obstruction to the passage of blood, the so-called atherosclerosis.
Another risk factor is being overweight. If your body mass index (BMI) is way above what your weight and height should match, then beware! It is very conducive to an increase in cholesterol levels in these situations.
People who are diabetic are more susceptible to having high levels of high cholesterol. Watch out for sugar! When present in high amounts in the blood, it can also be harmful to the arteries.
What diseases are associated with cholesterol?
High cholesterol is one of the main causes of heart attacks, strokes and coronary heart disease.
It should be noted that this risk increases in people with high blood pressure or even diabetes.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or coronary heart disease, are the biggest concern when it comes to high cholesterol, as they are the leading cause of death in Europe.
Therefore, reducing risk factors and always taking into account a healthy lifestyle will help to keep your cholesterol within normal limits.
When should cholesterol tests be done?
You should bear in mind that your doctor will know the ideal time to intervene and help you carry out the necessary tests.
Cholesterol analysis should be performed in the presence of the following cases:
- coronary disease;
- Cerebral vascular accident (CVA);
- age over 40 years;
- peripheral artery diseases;
- arterial hypertension;
- family history of cardiovascular disease;
How can you control cholesterol levels?
Cholesterol must be watched by all adults and children from 10 years old.
If you have high cholesterol, you can and should check your blood fat levels together with your doctor. For that, must comply with a strict diet and take some medication.
With regard to diet, patients with high cholesterol should follow a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fats. In addition, it is important that the patient does not eat too much salt in their meals.
If you intend to cut down on fat, you should follow a diet rich in soluble fiber (found in oats and barley) and low in fat. In addition, the consumption of margarines rich in vegetable stanol also contributes to the reduction of cholesterol levels.
Regarding the medicationthis can play a key role in controlling cholesterol, as the right drugs help to normalize cholesterol levels, but also to stabilize lesions in the arteries and prevent the development of arterial disease.
The importance of a healthy lifestyle
In order for your cholesterol levels to remain normal, it is essential that you have a healthy lifestyle.
Practicing physical exercise, eating foods containing unsaturated fats, not smoking and combating a sedentary lifestyle are behaviors that help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
So that you have no doubts, we made a list of foods high in saturated fats and trans fatsthat is, that contribute to increased cholesterol:
- Meat (mainly ruminant animals such as kid, lamb and beef);
- Chorizo, black pudding, farinheira;
- Dairy products;
- pastry sweets;
- products from fast food as pizzashamburgers, ready-made and/or frozen meals and soups;
- snacks savory and sweet;
- Fat fish.
7 foods that help improve cholesterol
It is rich in oleic acid. There is much evidence of the benefits of olive oil with regard to cholesterol, which is derived from its monounsaturated fatty acids.
Its consumption helps a lot to reduce cholesterol. Because it is made up of monounsaturated fats, these help to regulate the cholesterol level. And they have the characteristic to increase the formation of HDL.
It has the property to lower LDL. Artichokes contain cynarin, which is a potent liver protector.
Even though they are quite energetic they do not contain cholesterol. In addition, they increase HDL, good cholesteroland its fibers are great at eliminating LDL.
You can enjoy all its benefits in juice that reduces the accumulation of cholesterol waste, increasing the production of nitric acid. This juice has a double effect: it reduces bad cholesterol and increases the good one.
They have pectin, which reduces total cholesterol and the level of LDL, causing it to be eliminated from the body. In addition, they are rich in lecithin, a substance that emulsifies fats, helps to discard them and to form HDL, the good cholesterol.
Prevents oxidation of LDL. Garlic has properties to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition, it contains quercetin, which prevents bad cholesterol from oxidizing and adhering to artery walls.