There are a lot of health warnings being seen these days about the raised cholesterol level. The most intriguing fact is that why is there so much concern about something that is also a necessity for our body. True there is a need for cholesterol in our body; however if it is generated in a massive proportion it can have adverse effect on our health.
The name cholesterol originates from the Greek ‘chole’ (bile) and ‘stereos’ (solid), and the chemical suffix ‘-ol’ for an alcohol. Cholesterol is a lipid that forms part of the outer cell membrane that surrounds every living animal tissue. It is also called sterol, as it is a combination of steroid and alcohol. Traces of cholesterol is also found is plants and fungi. Since cholesterol insulates fibres that are most necessary for the functioning of our bodies, it is very essential for us.
Problem arises when the level of this cholesterol increases in our body. Too much cholesterol in the body might lead to coronary heart disease or arterial diseases. Since cholesterol does not dissolve in blood, it is transported through the circulatory system within lipoproteins and other complex spherical particles having an exterior that is mainly composed of water-soluble proteins like fats.
Cholesterol and food have an intimate connection. There are certain types of foods, which if taken too much can lead to the increase in the cholesterol level. Some of these foods include, red meat, eggs and shellfishes. It is the saturated fat that is the main culprit behind the increase in cholesterol level because once they enter the body; the liver turns these saturated fats into cholesterols.
: This is called bad cholesterol since this carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells and causes harm if present in excess.
This is called good cholesterol as this takes cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver. In the liver, this cholesterol is broken down.
If the level of LDL cholesterol and Trigyceride increases in the body of a person, and the HDL decreases, then there is a higher chance of danger from excessive cholesterol. Consuming fatty food and leading a sedentary life are instrumental behind high cholesterol level of an individual.
People who have high cholesterol level often have high lipoprotein level too. The Lipoproteins are special molecules that transport cholesterol across the body. Therefore only knowing the cholesterol level is not enough. The lipoprotein levels are also necessary to be controlled.
There is a controversy among doctors regarding the determination of healthy cholesterol levels. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Department of Health cholesterol guidelines have made the following observations about the healthy level of cholesterol:
Total cholesterol—less than 5.0mmol/l
LDL cholesterol —less than 3.0mmol/l
The Joint British Societies recommend a different cholesterol limits for people having a risk of coronary heart disease:
Total cholesterol - less than 4.0mmol/l
LDL cholesterol - less than 2.0mmol/l
A persons overall physical qualities and the balance of lipoproteins determine his healthy level of cholesterol. Other factors which determine the healthy levels of cholesterol are age, gender, weight, family history of heart diseases, smoking habits, eating habits, blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
Hypercholesterolemia: Atheroma is formed on the walls of the arteries due to elevated concentrations of oxidised LDL particles in the body. This can lead to coronary heart disease and other forms of cardiovascular diseases.
Hypocholesterolemia: This is caused by abnormally low level of cholesterol in the blood. Though some researches suggest that there is a link of this with cancer, depression, and cerebral hemorrhage, nothing has been proved for sure as yet.
Certain preventive measures need to be taken in order to maintain a healthy cholesterol level.
Keeping a regular check on the cholesterol level, especially for people with heart disease in the family, or obesity is a must. One should also keep a check on the type of food eaten and stop smoking.
The initial steps in treating high cholesterol levels are:
Regular physical activity
Eating healthy, that is cutting down on trans fats and saturated fats.
Intake of foods like garlic, soybeans, oats, corn and selenium-enriched cereals that help in lowering the cholesterol levels.