Cholesterol is a naturally occurring, fat-like substance with a complex chemical formula,
and is used to build cells and make hormones. Some amount of cholesterol is necessary for healthy and proper functioning of the body cells. For example, the presence of cholesterol is essential for the formation of reproductive hormones and metabolism of vitamin D in the body. In young children, cholesterol is required for the development of brain cells.
Cholesterol in the blood comes from two main sources:
1. The cholesterol ingested from outside, that is taken in the daily diet. An average vegetarian consumes between 200-400 mg of cholesterol daily, while a non-vegetarian usually consumes between 400-600 mg of cholesterol.
2. A large part of the cholesterol in the blood comes from the cholesterol production within the liver.
High blood cholesterol is recognised and accepted as a major risk factor in heart attacks and heart disease. It has been established that by reducing cholesterol level by one per cent, the risk of heart disease is reduced by two per cent.
The total blood cholesterol is the sum total of cholesterol carried by three kinds of lipoproteins: very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL) and
high density lipoprotein (HDL).
HDL is often referred to as `good cholesterol’ and LDL as `bad cholesterol’.
By far the most comprehensive and widely accepted standard of total blood cholesterol level is that of US National Cholesterol Education Programme:
< 200 mg = Desirable
200-239 mg = Borderline
High 240 mg = High Risk
It has been noted that even if total cholesterol is well within the normal limit of 200 mg, a person may still have low level of HDL, the ‘good cholesterol’, which is associated with
increased risk of heart disease.
You should consider yourself in high risk category
If you are a male
Above 45 years of age
Having a family history of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
Are a cigarette smoker
Having high blood pressure
Now the good news. Heart disease due to high blood cholesterol is both avoidable and curable. In almost all cases high blood cholesterol can be controlled and reversed through changes in life style, diet and regular exercise; only a few require medication and surgery.
High fibre intake can reduce chances of CHD, diabetes and obesity. High intake of soluble fibre has been found to reduce cholesterol by 20 to 25 per cent. Fruit and vegetables are rich in fibre as well as in vitamins and minerals. Fish and fish oil are known to reduce the bad cholesterol.
Foods which are strictly no – Are red meat, egg yolk, cheese and all types of saturated fats.
Finally, it is important to exercise and keep your weight within the recommended range.
Despite all the current hoopla over cholesterol levels, the blood tests given to check your cholesterol levels leave a lot to be desired. Some problems are caused by the equipment used. The tabletop machines used in public screenings can give varying results, from 200
to 250 for the same sample. But even the most sophisticated equipment can be off by 5 per cent.
In order to get accurate reading you must do two things:
Fast for 8 to 12 hours before a test to measure your HDL and LDL components.
Always get a second test and compare levels.
Talk to your doctor about how often you should get your cholesterol checked.