Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell in your body. Your liver makes most of the cholesterol in your body, and the rest comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol is important because it:
- Helps produce hormones
- Helps your body produce vitamin D
- Aid in digestion
Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream attached to proteins. These proteins are called lipoproteins. Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol in your blood:
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL): This is the “bad” cholesterol.
- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL): This is the “good” cholesterol.
Cholesterol is essential for overall health, but too much LDL cholesterol in your blood can cause plaque to build up in your blood vessels over time. A key factor to remember is that unhealthy LDL cholesterol has no symptoms and can lead to a sudden health crisis. Therefore, learning about LDL cholesterol and maintaining a healthy level should be your priority.
LDL cholesterol: an overview
Lipids, such as cholesterol, are insoluble in water and require a carrier to transport them to various parts of the body. LDL, or low density lipoprotein, is one of these special types of lipoproteins.
LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” because when it reaches excessive levels, it builds up in the blood and causes plaque. Over time, the plaque narrows the arteries and eventually causes a heart attack or stroke.
The liver produces very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), which are then metabolized into LDL by a chain reaction involving specific lipases. Interestingly, LDL makes up most of the cholesterol in your body.
Ideal LDL levels
Keeping a close eye on your cholesterol levels is crucial because increased LDL levels can lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and even death. Knowing the healthy LDL range is key to preventing these risks.
The normal LDL level is less than 100 mg/dl, but it can differ depending on age, gender, and the presence or absence of risk factors such as family history, blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes . However, an LDL level above 100 mg/dl is undesirable for someone with diabetes or heart disease.
Here is the general plan of LDL ranges.
- Less than 100 mg/dL: Optimal
- 100-129 mg/dL: near optimal/above optimal
- 130-159 mg/dL: upper limit
- 160-189 mg/dL: high
- 190 mg/dL and above: very high
Causes of High LDL Cholesterol
According WHO, Globally, one-third of ischemic heart disease is attributable to high cholesterol. Overall, hypercholesterolemia is estimated to cause 2.6 million deaths (4.5% of the total) and 29.7 million DALYs, or 2% of the total DALYs. There are many underlying causes, some of which are easier to treat than others.
High LDL cholesterol is often the result of excess dietary cholesterol, bile, or an imbalance in the synthesis and absorption of cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes high LDL cholesterol is hereditary, increasing the risk of familial hypercholesterolemia. In such cases, the body finds it difficult to eliminate excess LDL cholesterol.
Some other common causes behind high LDL levels are:
- Physical inactivity
- An unhealthy diet that includes red meat, whole dairy sources, trans fats, and processed fats
- Lack of quality sleep
- Certain medications
- Genetic Disorders
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
Note from The Fitness Freak
As people age, the risk of high cholesterol increases. Indeed, genetics, smoking, obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity multiply the percentage of risk. Since high LDL cholesterol does not necessarily have symptoms, it is crucial to monitor LDL levels regularly. Regular monitoring of LDL levels is essential in patients with hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
Strategies for achieving healthy LDL cholesterol levels
Achieving a healthy LDL cholesterol level may seem difficult, but it’s not impossible. Here are some of the best lifestyle changes to help you reach your cholesterol goal.
Eat a balanced diet
Whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables can help control cholesterol levels and lead a healthy life. Be sure to include oatmeal, Red beansapples and other fiber-rich foods to reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood.
Stick to moderate to high intensity exercises and do them for 45-60 minutes, at least 3-4 times a week, to lower LDL and increase good cholesterol.
Studies show that a body mass index of 30 or more will lead to high LDL cholesterol. Therefore, losing weight can have a positive impact on cholesterol.
Smoking makes cholesterol stickier. The nicotine in tobacco causes a decrease in HDL cholesterol levels, resulting in an accumulation of lipids in the arterial wall. And as a result, it clings to the walls of your arteries and clogs them.
Limit alcohol consumption
Alcohol breaks down and rebuilds into triglycerides. When the level of triglycerides increases, they can build up in the liver, causing fatty liver disease. As a result, the liver cannot function as well as it should and cannot remove cholesterol from your blood, leading to increased cholesterol levels.
Reduce saturated and trans fats
While adapting to a healthy diet, opt for foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Also, foods like baked goods, sugary snacks, or fried foods will have a negative effect on your cholesterol levels.
Maintaining an ideal range of LDL cholesterol levels is essential to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease. Simple lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help lower your bad cholesterol levels. Creating these positive changes in your life will also have a profound impact on your overall well-being.
So if you want to understand what you need to eat and what lifestyle changes you need to make to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, talk to an expert at HealthifyMe and start your journey to healthy living.