This may surprise you, but cholesterol in the body is not at all as bad as is commonly believed. In fact, it is simply one of the substances that our body produces to maintain a healthy state. Another source of cholesterol is food, mostly of animal origin. But it’s worth noting that our liver produces significantly more cholesterol if there are harmful trans fats in the diet.
- 1 What is cholesterol?
- 2 Cholesterol Functions
- 3 What is blood cholesterol?
- 4 What influences sterol levels?
- 5 Risk factors and reasons for the increase
- 6 “Fat” vessels: risk factors
- 7 Blood Concentration: Norm and Deviation
- 8 How to calculate the health risk?
- 9 Can a diet lower cholesterol?
- 10 Diet for people with high cholesterol
- 11 What is dangerous cholesterol
- 12 Cholesterol and heart disease
- 13 Interesting research
- 14 How to determine the level of sterol?
- 15 How to understand the numbers in the analyzes
- 16 Lipid therapy
- 17 How to lower blood cholesterol
- 18 Is sterol deficiency a problem?
- 19 Sources of Cholesterol
- 20 Foods Against Cholesterol
- 21 Other dietary recommendations
- 22 Special sport for special lipids
- 23 Did you know about this?
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance sterol, which is contained in the membranes of all cells of a living organism.
It is necessary for humans to produce hormones, vitamin D, as well as certain enzymes. The highest concentrations of cholesterol are found in the cells of the liver and brain. By the way, gall bladder stones are also cholesterol. This fact explains the strange name of the substance, which in Greek means two words: “bile” and “hard”.
The body is able to independently produce cholesterol for its needs (almost 75 percent of the total). In the body, this substance is produced by different cells. But most of all, almost a quarter of the total, the liver produces. In addition, the sterol is synthesized in the intestine and in the skin layers.
In addition, sterol can be ingested with food. But, according to some researchers, cholesterol in this variation is poorly absorbed by the intestines, therefore, obtained from products, it slightly affects the total amount of the substance in the blood. Although, we note right away, such an assertion is only one of many theories.
Being an oil-based substance, cholesterol does not mix with blood, which is an aqueous solution, so to speak, so it is transported through vessels in small “packages” – lipoproteins. They are created from lipids on the inside, and proteins – from the outside.
In the human body, they are represented by two types:
- low density lipoproteins (LDL), or as they are also said to be – “bad” cholesterol with a modified molecular structure (this substance is the culprit in the blockage of arteries, cardiac diseases, as it contributes to the creation of atherosclerotic plaques);
- high density lipoproteins (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. On the contrary, this substance prevents the development of atheroma (clogging of blood vessels), since it works to remove “bad” cholesterol. If you explain it rather primitively, HDL elements capture the “bad” sterol and transport it to the liver, where these particles are processed and removed from the body. The normal level of “right” cholesterol is called an important factor for the prevention of cardiac diseases. It is contained in healthy animal food, is also produced by the body, and its excess is excreted.
Meanwhile, for the proper functioning of the body, it is important to maintain the levels of both types of lipoproteins in adequate limits.
This substance performs a number of functions that affect the functioning of the body. Here are just some of them:
- support the structure of cell walls;
- affect the production of bile acids;
- promote the production of vitamin D;
- support the production of certain hormones.
What is blood cholesterol?
The definition of “high cholesterol” means an increased amount of a substance in the blood. But this condition is not accompanied by any symptoms, which is why many people do not even know about their bad analyzes. Meanwhile, people with an elevated sterol are many times more likely to experience coronary artery disease. And the higher the cholesterol, the higher these chances. If a lipid clot blocks the artery that feeds the brain, a stroke occurs, and blockage of blood vessels that supply blood to the heart causes a heart attack.
What influences sterol levels?
To a certain extent, the level of sterol in the blood may vary depending on the principles of nutrition. However, (and doctors also agree) people who follow the same diet may have different levels of cholesterol in their blood. Although, if you refuse fatty foods, the indices will undoubtedly decrease.
In some individuals, very high cholesterol can be genetically determined. This phenomenon is called familial hypercholesterolemia.
Risk factors and reasons for the increase
Increased cholesterol provoke two types of factors: modified and unmodified.
The easiest way to affect cholesterol levels is to avoid over-consumption of fat. In particular, nutritionists recommend limiting foods that have:
- trans fats;
- saturated fats;
- cholesterol (eat in food of animal origin).
Excess weight is also a common cause of the growth of “bad” cholesterol, but regular exercise solves this problem. But perhaps the most serious “culprits” are genes.
In addition, an abnormal level of sterol can appear on the background of some diseases:
- kidney and liver diseases;
- polycystic ovaries;
- hormonal disorders in women;
- thyroid dysfunction.
Anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, progestins can increase the level of LDL and reduce HDL.
“Fat” vessels: risk factors
Perhaps all people are at varying degrees at risk of atherosclerotic plaques. But some circumstances may accelerate the formation of fat deposits in the vessels. These include:
- unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, poor diet with high salt intake);
- high levels of triglycerides in the blood;
- renal dysfunction;
- increased concentration of “bad” cholesterol.
And if a person is still able to influence at least partially the above factors, then there are nuances that cannot be changed, and they can also cause atherosclerosis. It:
- genetic addiction;
- early menopause in women;
- male gender (men are more susceptible);
- age (over the years, this risk increases).
And most importantly, these factors interact with each other. The presence of two or more of the above points is a reason to monitor your health more carefully.
Blood Concentration: Norm and Deviation
As a rule, the higher the level of LDL (“bad” cholesterol), the higher the risk to health. And by the way, a blood test that determines only total cholesterol can be misleading. The overall high rate still does not give a clue as to which lipoprotein does not meet the norm. On the other hand, if total cholesterol is elevated, It is possible that there is an excess of only HDL, which does not bear health problems. But in order not to guess, but to be confident in the state of health, it is important to determine the levels of the substance of both groups.
How to calculate the health risk?
Doctors often resort to using the so-called calculator of risk factors for cardiac diseases. In this case, take into account age, gender, bad habits, blood pressure and indicators of cholesterol. This calculator was developed after many years of monitoring several thousand people. Today they talk about a rather high accuracy of the results predicted by this method. After analysis, the doctor determines the risk of disease as a percentage. So:
- 20% and above – high risk of cardiac diseases for the next decade;
- 10-20% – moderate risk;
- less than 10% – low risk.
Can a diet lower cholesterol?
Cholesterol is both a friend and an enemy of man. It is necessary for the normal functioning of the body, but if its level in the blood rises too much, there is a risk of a heart attack. Refusal from malnutrition and the transition to a healthy diet gives a good chance of reducing the “bad” sterol. In addition, healthy food will help to adjust other indicators, such as the concentration of salts and sugar in the body.
Diet for people with high cholesterol
Nutritionists in the UK have compiled a list of 6 super-food groups that help reduce sterol concentration. It:
- soy products: milk, desserts, meat substitutes, beans, tofu (at least 15 g per day);
- nuts (handful);
- oatmeal and barley;
- fruits and vegetables;
- foods rich in polyunsaturated fats.
In addition, the British have also collected a list of six foods that are most dangerous for people who have high cholesterol. It consists of:
- fat and processed meat;
- milk fat.
What is dangerous cholesterol
It seems that everyone already knows that high cholesterol is a health problem. But how dangerous an excess of “fatty wax” is and what causes such deviations from the norm, people without medical education can rarely be clearly explained. Passing the heavy medical terminology, we will try to tell about it as clearly as possible.
So, two types of lipoproteins “live” in the vessels. “Good” HDL cholesterol is collected and transported to the liver. There the substance is recycled and excreted from the body. At the same time, there is a “harmful” analogue of sterol. He travels around the body in a different direction – from the liver, and periodically sticks to the walls of blood vessels. Over time, this accumulation of “grease wax” narrows the patency of the arteries. So arteriosclerosis occurs.
People who already have cardiac problems, or liver diseases are diagnosed, cholesterol intake is important, if not minimized, then at least to minimize. The same applies to persons after surgery. They should not take cholesterol for at least two and a half months.
Cholesterol and heart disease
Spots of atheroma resemble small fatty lumps that form inside the vessels. Atheroma is also known by other names – atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
Over the years (in some cases, several months are enough for this process), the sites of atheroma can become larger and thicker. Subsequently, due to the accumulation of fats on the walls of blood vessels, the arteries narrow and the blood flow weakens. Narrowing the diameter of the coronary arteries is the cause of angina pectoris. Sometimes a blood clot (with thrombosis) can come across atheroma. Such a course of events ends with a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiac problems. Thus, atherosclerotic plaques can cause angina pectoris, heart attack, stroke, ischemic attacks, diseases of the peripheral arteries. By the way, diseases of the cardiovascular system caused by atheroma are the most common cause of mortality and poor health.
According to a study conducted in 2013, the imbalance of LDL and HDL not only affects heart health, but also affects the functionality of the brain. A decrease in the concentration of “bad” sterol reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists also associate stenosis of the heart valve (an anomaly in which the valve narrows, restricting blood flow to the heart) with an increase in the level of “bad” cholesterol.
How to determine the level of sterol?
Maintaining an adequate level of cholesterol is a great way to protect yourself from stroke and heart disease.
Many are interested in what symptoms causes elevated LDL. And this is the whole snag. None! Often, only the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases opens the patient’s eyes to his cholesterol level. Therefore, doctors are increasingly recommending to individuals older than 20 years, as well as people from the risk category every 4-6 years, to check the concentration of “fat” of blood.
Laboratory test results show cholesterol in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg / dL). But, in order to understand how safe for a person are indicators of “bad” and total cholesterol, doctors analyze other factors (age, family history, smoking, hypertension).
Usually, the total cholesterol score is calculated by the formula:
LDL + HDL + 20 percent of triglyceride levels.
For the body is good when HDL is greater than other lipids. As for triglycerides, it is the most common type of lipids (fat) in the body. Its level depends on age, gender and other factors. High concentration of triglycerides in combination with high LDL and low HDL – an alarm signal. He can talk about the presence of fat accumulation on the walls of blood vessels (atherosclerosis).
How to understand the numbers in the analyzes
- optimal: less 100 mg / dL;
- close to optimal: from 100 to 129 mg / dl;
- borderline high: from 130 to 159 mg / dl;
- high: 160 to 189 mg / dL;
- very high: 190 mg / dL.
- normal: less than 200 mg / dL;
- borderline high: 200-239 mg / dl;
- high: 240 mg / dl and above.
- low: below 40 mg / dL;
- high: 60 mg / dl and above.
- normal: 200 mg / dl and less;
- borderline normal: 200-399 mg / dl;
- high: 400-1000 mg / dL;
- very high: 100 mg / dl and above;
- high: 160 mg / dl and above.
Hyperlipidemia is a condition in which the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides increase.
Treatment in this case is determined individually, depending on the level of cholesterol. When he keeps in the range of 100-160 mg / dl, in the so-called lower level, but there are other risk factors, it is possible to lower the concentration of lipids by diet and exercise. With 130-190 mg / dL, different drugs are already used to correct the condition. Among the most popular are:
- sateen – inhibit the production of enzymes responsible for the production of cholesterol;
- Folic acid – catalyzes the oxidation of lipids in the liver, which helps to reduce the concentration of LDL and triglycerides;
- bile acid binding drug – slows down the production of cholesterol in the liver.
In addition, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, nicotinic and folic acids, B12 and B6 vitamins help reduce lipoproteins. Also, substances that affect cholesterol are found in green tea, soy protein and garlic.
How to lower blood cholesterol
But lowering cholesterol levels is not only about drugs. If you follow certain tips, you can also protect yourself from unhealthy fats.
To do this:
- Read food labels. It is important to choose foods that do not contain trans fats, as well as foods with low cholesterol.
- Limit consumption of red meat, fatty dairy products. Instead of margarine, use natural vegetable oils. Refuse fried foods.
- Eat more fiber. Tests have shown that with its help actually reduce the concentration of sterol by 10 percent.
- If high cholesterol is a genetic problem in your family, get into an exercise as soon as possible and stick to a healthy diet. Even if your laboratory lipid values are normal.
- Are you overweight? Get rid of it as soon as possible, and the risk of atherosclerosis for you will decrease by almost 10 percent.
Is sterol deficiency a problem?
Everybody is somehow accustomed to, that it is necessary to fight cholesterol, to reduce its concentration in the body by hook or by crook. But it is important to know that in the “human cholesterol” chain there are situations when the body on the contrary asks for additional portions of the substance.
To increase the consumption of foods rich in Sterol, it is important in case of insufficient production of sex hormones and bile acid. Additional portions of cholesterol will also help to restore damaged red blood cells (red blood cells). Any weakness? This may also be a reason for increasing the concentration of lipoproteins. And now the fun part. We are used to high cholesterol harming arteries. But when it is deficient, the vessels also suffer – they become fragile. In this case, the lipoproteins strengthen the damaged areas of the arteries with peculiar wax patches.
Signs of a sterol deficiency can be bruising and changes in the blood count, fatigue and lowering the pain threshold, as well as weakened immunity, depression, reproductive system dysfunction, or a decrease.
Sources of Cholesterol
When creating a nutritional program to reduce weight and improve overall health, it is important to know which foods contain high concentrations of cholesterol. Below is a table with the necessary information for this.
Cholesterol in foods
|Product (100 g)||Cholesterol (g)|
|Liver, liver pate||0,5|
|Cream (20 percent)||0,07|
But this does not mean at all that it is possible (or necessary) to refuse products containing cholesterol. Sterols are beneficial to humans, and in adequate doses will only benefit. To confirm this, we can recall the traditional menu of inhabitants of maritime countries, which is especially cholesterol-rich, but at the same time considered extremely useful. As cholesterol in this menu is also from the category of useful.
Foods Against Cholesterol
Proper diet – the right assistant to fight the “bad” cholesterol. So, what foods are most beneficial to health, that from our table will help reduce LDL performance and strengthen the cardiovascular system?
Soluble fiber, which is contained in the “Hercules,” as well as possible helps to reduce the concentration of “bad” cholesterol. In addition, soluble fiber should be searched in beans, apples, pears, prunes and barley porridge.
Scientists have calculated that 5-10 grams of soluble fiber, consumed daily, significantly reduces the lipid level in the blood. And by the way, to provide yourself with the recommended norms of this substance is not as difficult as it may seem. For example, one portion of “Hercules” contains approximately 6 of fiber. If you add fruits and vegetables to the dish, then its total amount will be approximately 10 g. And this is even more than the minimum rate.
Cholesterol can affect a handful of nuts. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, cedar or pistachios – you can take any of those that you like. They all contain mono – and polyunsaturated fatty acids, strengthens blood vessels. But, choosing nuts as a medicine for cholesterol, it is important to give preference to natural products, without sugar coating or salt.
This powerful source of beneficial substances is also able to reduce the concentration of LDL. Especially useful for people who are overweight.
Two tablespoons of olive oil a day is enough for the body to feel the benefits. A strong heart and normal cholesterol are the main benefits of this product. But you shouldn’t get too carried away because, like avocado, it contains quite a lot of calories.
Scientists have proved that the protein found in whey of dairy products is also able to influence the levels of LDL and total cholesterol in the direction of lowering. Therefore, do not turn off natural milk food from your diet.
In addition to these products, salmon, flaxseeds, plant cholesterol, citrus fruits and soybeans will help in the fight against LDL. So do not immediately look for pills to lower cholesterol. Especially when the concentration of the substance is not much higher than normal.
Other dietary recommendations
But in order for any of the above products to actually benefit the body, it is important to review the general principles of nutrition. First, completely eliminate trans fats from your diet. And that means abandoning margarines, cakes and pies from stores. On the label, trans substances are commonly called “partially hydrogenated fats.” But besides this, it is important to supplement the correct diet with at least a little physical activity.
Special sport for special lipids
Exercise alone cannot lower cholesterol levels. But regular exercise “start” in the body processes, which as a result lead to a decrease in the concentration of LDL. In addition, it is already known that obese people, as a rule, have high cholesterol, and weight loss contributes to the solution of this problem. On the other hand, exercise stimulates the production of enzymes that facilitate the transport of LDL to the liver. And the third reason is in favor of sports: physical activity can affect the size of the protein particles that carry cholesterol in the blood.
The fact that sport is good is already clear. But another question arises: how often and how long should the workout last to affect cholesterol? On this topic, researchers continue to argue, putting forward new theories. Some people think that 30 is enough minutes per day to run all the necessary mechanisms. Others argue that this is too little to sense changes in cholesterol concentrations.
But, nevertheless, the researchers studied trends in people involved in intensive, and in individuals who prefer moderate loads. It turned out that both kinds of occupations give a positive result, but in the first case the changes come faster.
And now, when we have figured out the intensity of training, it’s time to find out which sport is better to give preference to people with high cholesterol. Most experts agree: walking is the best choice. Moderate exercise and pacing is suitable for everyone, even people with severe obesity. Normal running or jogging also helps lower cholesterol. And lovers of pedaling can safely sit on bicycles and begin to reduce the level of their LDL.
The only rule for everyone, regardless of which sport they choose, is to practice regularly. Only in this case, you can count on an improvement in blood tests. This does not mean that the fight against cholesterol should turn into a daily several-hour workout. You can create your own lesson plan and stick to it. The main thing is to move regularly.
But before you begin to engage, it is extremely important to consult with your doctor, together discuss the intensity and duration of training. Especially if there is a history of heart problems.
Did you know about this?
- There are no daily allowances for the consumption of cholesterol from food. The liver is able to produce exactly as much as necessary for the body. From this point of view, vegetarians, in whose menu there is no animal food, do very correctly.
- High cholesterol can be inherited.
- High concentrations of lipoproteins can even be found in children. Atherosclerotic plaques begin to accumulate in childhood, especially against the background of congenital problems with the cardiovascular system.
- Paradoxically, products that do not contain cholesterol can increase the concentration of this substance in the blood. Moreover, cholesterol derived from food is not as bad for the body as saturated lipids and trans fats. If trans-lipids make up only 2% of the total calorie intake, then be sure this will increase the concentration of lipoproteins by 20 percent.
- Even minor weight loss will improve blood count.
- As a rule, men are more prone to high cholesterol. But in postmenopausal women, LDL levels also rise sharply.
- Bumps on the skin (xanthomas) may be a sign of increasing the concentration of lipids in the blood. As a rule, such formations appear in elderly people on elbows, knees or arms.
- It is believed that too low total cholesterol is no less harmful than raising the norm. Lack of lipids can increase the risk of cancer, depression, as well as cause premature birth and underweight in newborns.
- Cholesterol promotes the production of sex hormones, which are responsible for libido, and also helps digestion.
- Cholesterol is one of the building blocks of the body, or rather, an important component of cell membranes.
- High cholesterol is normal. But this statement is correct, only for women during pregnancy, when their body needs additional portions of this substance. Some studies say that the “right” cholesterol contributes to the formation of the brain in the fetus, and cholesterol-rich breast milk has a positive effect on the health of the child, especially on his cardiovascular system.
- High cholesterol can be recognized … by the eyes. White border around the cornea and fatty lumps under the skin of the eyelids – a sign of high cholesterol.
When it comes to cholesterol, many people immediately recall fatty unhealthy foods and heart disease. But in fact, cholesterol in the right concentration is our helper, without which many life processes would stop.