Cholesterol is a fat-like substance (lipid) present in the membrane of each one of our cells. Our body needs cholesterol to build cellular membranes, make hormones, digest our dietary fat intake, and assist with other very important bodily functions. Unfortunately there is a dark side to this seemingly helpful substance, one that negatively affects the lives of millions of people all over the world. Cholesterol travels in the blood in distinct particles containing both lipids and proteins (lipoproteins). When excessive amounts of cholesterol are circulated, they cause damage to the arteries, especially the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Cholesterol ridden plaque accumulates in vessel linings leading to a condition called “atherosclerosis”. This is the main cause of coronary disease and heart attacks, the primary cause of premature death in the developed world.
Cholesterol – High Cholesterol and Heart Disease
High cholesterol levels impede blood flow to the heart and the heart muscle becomes starved for oxygen, causing chest pains (angina). If a blood clot obstructs a coronary artery affected by atherosclerosis, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is likely to occur, and can often be fatal. Reducing cholesterol levels has become the primary method of reducing the risk of heart attacks in adults.
Heart disease stemming from high cholesterol levels is the major killer in America, far more than road accidents, plane crashes, drowning, and hurricanes combined together. More than 90 million American adults, or nearly 50 percent of the adult population has high blood cholesterol levels, the primary risk factor for heart disease. The higher your cholesterol level, the greater risk you have of suffering from heart disease as you age.
Cholesterol catalysts: Good Cholesterol and Bad Cholesterol
Three major classes of lipoproteins are found in the serum of a fasting individual: low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol, while LDL and especially VLDL cholesterol are considered the “bad” types of cholesterol that lead to heart disease if left untreated. Natural supplements such as Vasacor, and prescription medications such as Lipitor, are aimed at reducing the levels of the LDL and VLDL cholesterol that increase the risk of heart disease.
LDL cholesterol makes up 60-70 per cent of the total serum cholesterol. LDL is the major atherogenic lipoprotein and has been long ago identified as a primary target for cholesterol lowering therapy. LDL (and its cousin, VLDL) is the fatty substance that builds up on the walls of arteries, damaging the arterial wall and blocking the proper flow of blood. This typically results in higher blood pressure and unnecessary strain on the heart muscle.
HDL cholesterol makes up 20-30 percent of the total serum cholesterol.. Clinical evidence indicates that HDL helps protect against development of atherosclerosis. It is advisable to check your HDL levels from time to time. Increases in HDL levels are usually positively associated with a decrease in LDL and VLDL cholesterol levels.
The VLDL is triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and contains 10-15 percent of the total serum cholesterol .VLDL are produced by the liver and some VLDL remnants seem to promote atherosclerosis similar to LDL. VLDL is the “purest” form of the sticky artery-clogging cholesterol, and also the hardest to measure. VLDL cholesterol is usually estimated within a range based on the levels of free triglycerides circulating in the blood stream. Lowering your triglycerides will have a direct and beneficial effect on your VLDL levels as well.
Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease and increases your cholesterol. Losing weight helps lower your “bad” cholesterol and total cholesterol levels.
Physical activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity helps lower your “bad” cholesterol, raises your “good” cholesterol levels, and helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes a day, especially if you have high triglyceride and/or low HDL cholesterol levels and are overweight with a large waist measurement.
Foods to restrict/avoid
Rich pastries, doughnuts, croissant, deep fried snacks and sweets, cream, butter, ghee, mayonnaise, shrimps, liver, sausages, hamburgers, red meats, full cream milk and yogurt, kheer, condensed milk, evaporated milk, all full fat cheeses, fast foods, coconut oil, palm oil,
Restrict use of coconut milk, dessicated or fresh coconut.
All kinds of vegetables, in any amount.
All kinds of lentils. They contain good amount of protein but no saturated fat.
Whole eggs – 3 times a week and one at a time.
Choose chicken (skinned), and all kinds of fish prepared in any way but not deep fried..
Fat free milk and yogurt and low fat cheeses
Fruits – at least 3 in a day. Eat any citrus fruit when you feel the need for a sweet.
Use sesame, mustard, olive, sunflower, soyabean, oil in cooking.
Not more than 2 cups coffee per day.
How to cut down fat and cholesterol in the cooking:
First of all change the daily menu and opt for foods that need lesser oil, lesser coconut products and no frying.
· Use oats to thicken soups as they do in the MiddleEast.
· Instead of cream or coconut milk, use ground paste of nuts or skim milk. Or even a little low fat paneer ground to a paste makes the dish both tasty and healthy.
· If you insist on using eggs, use one whole egg and the other only the egg white. Even in baking you may do so without affecting the texture of the baked product.
· You can cut down on 30 % of the given fat in a recipe and still get a good tasty dish.
· De-skin poultry and remove all visible fat before cooking. If you need to cook red meat, then cook in sufficient water, chill and skim the fat layer that forms on top. Then continue with the preparation.
Most importantly, exercise – Half hour of walking 3 times per week.