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Want To Lower Cholesterol Level? Do It!

Nov 12, 2007
In today's fast-paced electronic age, high stress levels, physically inactive lifestyles, and easy availability of ready-made processed foods has led to a drastic rise in cardiovascular (i.e., heart-related) diseases. One physiological factor that contributes largely to these is high cholesterol level in the blood. And the sad thing is that most of the times people are not even aware of their high cholesterol levels unless something more serious strikes them.

It is, therefore, essential to have some important information about what cholesterol is and how one goes about lowering it. Here we go.

Cholesterol is a fatty wax-like substance circulating in our blood. A major part of it is synthesized by our liver, but some part comes from our diet - particularly from animal-derived foods like fatty meats, egg yolk, and full-cream dairy products. Vegetarian food items do not contain cholesterol.

Some amount of cholesterol is absolutely essential in the body to carry out a number of physiological body functions, such as formation of cell walls, production of bile for digestion, synthesis of hormones, and metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Cholesterol is water-insoluble, and therefore requires water-soluble protein carriers to transport it via blood stream from liver to various tissues for necessary use and back to liver for breakdown and disposal. The combined units of cholesterol and protein are called lipoproteins (L), which can be either high-density (HDL) or low-density (LDL).
HDL facilitates the transport of excess cholesterol from the arteries back to the liver for breakdown and disposal, and is therefore commonly referred to as "good cholesterol".

LDL is responsible for transport of cholesterol from the liver to various tissues and organs for necessary use. The problem arises only when LDL is in far excess amounts, and HDL (typically, only 25-30% of the total amount) is not enough to remove it from the blood stream. It then starts accumulating as a plaque on the internal arterial walls, hardening them and impeding normal blood flow - just as in a clogged water pipe - giving rise to a host of diseases. Since high LDL levels encourage plaque formation and artery clogging, LDL is referred to as "bad cholesterol".

When the arteries are clogged, the blood pressure increases and blood flow to various organs and tissues gets impaired. And if the arteries supplying blood to vital organs like heart, brain, kidneys and liver are involved, the results can be disastrous. For example, clogged heart arteries can lead to coronary heart disease and heart attack, those for brain to stroke and paralysis, those for kidneys to kidney diseases, and so on.

It is of utmost importance to maintain your cholesterol levels within optimum values. The goal should be to lower the total cholesterol and LDL levels and at the same time raise the protective HDL level.

As a first step to lowering cholesterol, experts recommend therapeutic lifestyle changes involving diet control and regular physical exercise. Here are some diet and lifestyle tips to achieving optimum cholesterol levels:

1. Say no to saturated fats (as in red meats and full-fat dairy products) and trans fats (as in commercial bakery items and processed foods), and use instead poly/monounsaturated fats like olive oil, groundnut oil, and other vegetable oils.
2. Eat a fiber-rich diet consisting of plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oats, nuts and seeds, beans, legumes, and cold-water fish.
3. Maintain normal body weight.
4. Quit smoking.
5. Consume alcohol, if you must, only in moderation.
6. Embark on a regular exercise program. Exercise is the only means to raise your protective HDL level.

If these measures do not suffice to reduce your cholesterol to desired levels, you will need to take one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs (called Statins) as recommended by your doctor.
About the Author
Alex Olson wrote a number of highly popular articles which concern health problems. In them she pays much attention on lowering cholesterol .
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