Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like steroid organic molecule in our body used to produce steroid hormones and bile acids. One of the biggest misconceptions in our society is that cholesterol is bad, to the contrary, cholesterol is vital for our existence.
One of the biggest compounds in cell membranes is cholesterol, that means it is vital to the function of the cell membrane which is responsible for permeability, transport of substances in and out of the cell and to protect the cell from its surroundings, among others.
The problem arises when this cholesterol ends up being in abundance and the body which then starts to store it throughout areas where blood travels, including inside the walls of arteries which leads to the inflammation or obstruction of arteries. The most dangerous obstructions occur in the coronary or carotid arteries, which if not treated can be fatal.
A lipid profile test helps to determine the cholesterol levels in a patient’s blood, measuring the levels of HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, total cholesterol level and the cholesterol to HDL ratio. Each of these figures helps your clinician keep a track of potential issues before they creep up on you. The main problem with having high cholesterol is that there are no symptoms until you have a heart attack.
LDL is a fatty protein that transports cholesterol through your bloodstream when your cells reject it because they have enough. The LDL deposits cholesterol wherever it can which ultimately leads to white blood cells attacking and trying to digest it resulting in its conversion into plaque. Plaque builds up over time and makes it harder for red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body, and can eventually cause a rupture on which blood clots form- if the clot travels to the heart, it leads to a heart attack.
HDL is a protein that forages LDL and returns it to the liver where it is broken down or recycled for future use. Higher levels of HDL are beneficial for your heart’s health, but other factors such as sedentary lifestyles and poor diets still contribute to the risk factors leading to heart attacks.
Triglycerides are the main form of fat in the body and excess consumption of calories leads to your body storing the excess triglycerides. Research has shown that there is a direct link between the level of alcohol consumption and high triglyceride levels.
You can naturally lower your cholesterol levels through:
• Aerobic exercise- exercise creates enzymes that removes triglycerides from your blood stream. Exercise also increases the molecule size of cholesterol, which makes it more difficult for it to get into your bloodstream. People who exercise frequently both lower their LDL levels and increase their HDL levels at the same time.
• Diet- foods such as oatmeal, fish, flax seed, chia seeds, olive oil, avocado, walnuts, blueberries, red wine and dark chocolate although are high in calorie content, help lower cholesterol levels when consumed in moderation. Foods such as red meat, egg yolk, dairy fat and shellfish contain high levels of cholesterol and although research shows that high saturated fat diets have no correlation to increased blood cholesterol levels, why not reduce your intake to be on the safe side?
Patients that are not able to lower their cholesterol levels naturally are therefore prescribed with statins. The drug works by blocking the production of an enzyme in the liver that is responsible for producing cholesterol. Although effective, statins have a wide range of side effects and should really be the last resort. Statins are standard medication regime for patients who have already had heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery bypass grafting as a preventative measure for potential future incidences.