The term cholesterol is coined from the Ancient Greek terms ‘chole’ (bile) and stereos (solid) followed by the chemical suffix – ol for an alcohol, which is an organic molecule. Cholesterol is a high-molecular-weight alcohol known as ‘sterol’ found in every cell of our body and its derivatives are important constituents of cell membranes and precursors of other steroid compounds, but high concentrations in the blood are thought to promote atherosclerosis.
In simple terms, cholesterol is a soft, waxy material that is present in the fats and lipids in the bloodstream and the cells. Cholesterol has many important functions. It is responsible for making the cell membranes and also produces hormones that are essential for the human body. However, too much of cholesterol in one’s body is harmful. High cholesterol may cause heart disease and heart attacks. It may also lead to erectile dysfunction in men.
Types of cholesterol
Though cholesterol is often feared as high cholesterol levels can often cause a heart attack or stroke, the truth is that cholesterol in a good form is actually very important for the proper and healthy functioning of the body. A few of the important roles of cholesterol include generating vitamin D, aiding digestion, and also producing hormones.
Cholesterol comes in two forms, namely LDL and HDL. LDL or low-density lipoprotein is the ‘bad’ type of cholesterol which blocks arteries making them less flexible leading. This, in turn, increases one’s risk of getting a heart attack or suffering from a stroke. HDL or high-density lipoprotein, on the other hand, is the ‘good’ type of cholesterol, which in fact reduces the risk of heart problems.
Related: Read more about LDL and HDL Cholesterol
Causes of high cholesterol
The liver is the organ responsible for managing the LDL levels in the body, as it manufactures and secrets safe levels of LDL into our bloodstream. However, certain factors could hamper this process, in turn, causing the liver cells to malfunction and cause LDL levels to rise. The factors which contribute to the increased levels of bad cholesterol are as follows:
- An unhealthy diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Being overweight
An unhealthy diet
This is one of the main causes of high cholesterol in the blood. We cannot deny the fact that today, a majority of our diets are made up of unhealthy fatty foods and less of healthy foods. Fried and oily foods are sure good to taste but they are loaded with saturated fats and trans fats. Foods such as red meat, cheese, baked good, and foods full of preservatives, fat and unhealthy calories which raise high cholesterol levels.[IT1]
Exercise of any kind helps boost good cholesterol levels. However, our busy lifestyles and hectic jobs often make it almost impossible for us to take out time to go to the gym or even exercise at home. Thus, no exercise coupled with an overload of unhealthy foods is a sure recipe for disaster.
This lack of physical activity can lead to a lack of energy and a high accumulation of body fat. This slowly but surely pushes us towards serious health disorders such as obesity which gives rise to high blood sugar and also high cholesterol levels. Thus, individuals who have a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more are at a greater risk of suffering from high cholesterol (check your BMI).
High cholesterol could also be inherited. This means, if you have a parent who suffers from high cholesterol or a family history of high cholesterol, you too could be at risk of suffering from high cholesterol as well. Other inherited disorders such as obesity could also contribute to high cholesterol levels.
Smoking is known to be one of the root causes of many ailments, such as cancer, high blood pressure and also high cholesterol. This occurs because cigarette smoke damages the walls of your blood vessels and lowers levels of good cholesterol. People who smoke are thus are a higher risk of suffering from high cholesterol.
Read More: What Causes of High Cholesterol?
Symptoms of high cholesterol
Symptoms are natural warning signs of our body. They warn us that something is wrong so that we can take necessary steps towards figuring out and solving what is wrong with our body. Almost every disease of the ailment has its own set of symptoms. However, when it comes to high cholesterol, the symptoms are almost absent or extremely difficult to spot. In fact, the first and one of the most significant warning signs of high cholesterol is the occurrence of a heart attack. It is this absence of symptoms which makes high cholesterol one of the deadliest health disorders.
However, in some cases, certain individuals with rare lipid problems or disorders, who suffer from high cholesterol may experience symptoms like the occurrence of bumps on their hands, feet, or skin.
Read More: Signs & Symptoms of High Cholesterol
Treatment for cholesterol
Cholesterol is a serious health disorder which should not be ignored. So how does one control cholesterol? The answer is simple, by making a few simple diet and simple lifestyle modifications. Here are a few foods which effectively lower high cholesterol levels.
Foods such as oat bran, flaxseeds, legumes, lentils etc. are rich in dietary and soluble fibers which naturally lower bad cholesterol levels.
Herbs & spices
Detoxification is an important process by which harmful toxins are flushed out from our body. Apart from aiding weight loss, this process also helps lower bad cholesterol levels. Herbs such as Tulsi, Neem, and spices like Haldi are excellent foods to aid the natural detoxification of your system.
Since high cholesterol is nearly impossible to detect, due to the absence of reliable symptoms the best way to check your cholesterol levels is through a simple cholesterol test. The normal range of HDL (good cholesterol) should be within 40mg/ dl or above. Also, the LDL (bad cholesterol) levels should be anything below 130 mg/dl.
However, if your diet consists majorly of fatty and oily foods or you do not exercise at all, and if you experience any unusual lumps on your skin, hands, or feet it would be wise to contact your doctor at the earliest.