Cholesterol and Heart Health
Cholesterol is a waxy or a fatty substance found in the blood made by the liver and consumed in food. We need cholesterol in our blood to give structure to the cell walls, produce Vitamin D, make bile acid in the intestine, and help the body to make hormones. There’re two types of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) also known as “good cholesterol”, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as “bad cholesterol”.
Too much LDL cholesterol can build up in the arteries wall causing a state called “atherosclerosis”, this’s when plaques form blocking the arteries leading to strokes and heart attacks, due to the low flow of the blood to the heart, brain, and other vital organs.
Good amounts of HDL cholesterol, on the other hand removes LDL cholesterol from the arteries protecting the heart.
The cause of high cholesterol especially LDL cholesterol are, genetics, physical inactivity, high fat diet, smoking, hypothyroidism, stress, diabetes, and obesity.
· Saturated & trans fat:
High saturated fats are found in animal products, and trans fats are found in baked goods, crackers, and chips. These kinds of fats will increase the LDL “bad cholesterol” in the blood, also red meats and full fat dairy have high cholesterol, which can have the same effect on the blood vessels.
· Physical activity:
Cardio exercises increase HDL “good cholesterol”, which in turns removes LDL “bad cholesterol” from the arteries. Examples of cardio exercises are, walking, jogging, running, swimming, hiking, cycling, climbing, etc.
Smoking cigarette damages the arteries wall, which makes it easier for fats to buildup leading to high LDL “bad cholesterol”, and low HDL “good cholesterol”.
High blood sugar can damage the arteries wall, and the higher the blood sugar the higher “very low density lipoprotein” (VLDL), which is a form of bad cholesterol, and the lower HDL “good cholesterol” you will have.
The good news is you can prevent and protect yourself from high cholesterol and heart diseases, by adding these foods to your diet:
Oats is rich in soluble fiber, which binds LDL “bad cholesterol” in the small intestine stopping it from reaching the blood and cause harm to your arteries. Soluble fiber removes cholesterol from the intestine to the liver to excrete it out of your body.
· Other soluble fiber rich foods:
Okra, beans, barley, whole grain, and eggplant. Not only these foods eliminate LDL “bad cholesterol” from your body, but also they can make you feel full for longer, which aids weight loss.
· Omega-3 fats & unsaturated fats:
High omega-3 foods like, fatty fish, flax and chia seeds help lower triglycerides (fats) in the blood, and boost HDL “good cholesterol”.
Olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are known to be heart friendly. Avocado and nuts are also rich in fiber, which helps in lowering LDL “bad cholesterol” levels and increase HDL “good cholesterol” in the blood.
· Green tea:
Green tea is rich in the antioxidant “Catechins”, which protects from developing “atherosclerosis” by lowering LDL “bad cholesterol” in the blood.
The key for maintaining an ideal cholesterol level is by staying away from foods that damage the arteries wall, and stick to the foods that help keep your blood vessels and heart healthy. Combining good nutrition with exercise is the most effective way to prevent high cholesterol, along with avoiding high saturated fats, sugary, and processed foods.
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www.heart.org. (2019). Control Your Cholesterol.
Dr. Axe. (2019). How Exactly to Lower Cholesterol Naturally.
Mayo Clinic. (2019). High cholesterol - Symptoms and causes.
Publishing, H. (2019). 11 foods that lower cholesterol - Harvard Health.