What Is Cholesterol And What Functions Does It Serve
Cholesterol is a fatty substance necessary for the proper functioning of our body. It is produced in the liver and is also provided through food. It fulfills several functions since it is part of the cell membranes, it is involved in the formation of bile acids necessary for the digestion of fats, and it is the precursor of the sex and thyroid hormones. Cholesterol travels through the blood attached to structures called lipoproteins and depending on the type of lipoprotein to which it is attached, the effects on our health will vary.
There are 2 types of lipoproteins:
- LDL: They transport cholesterol from the liver to the different tissues of the organism and it tends to be deposited on the walls of the arteries, which makes it difficult for the blood to pass and can cause cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack. For this reason, it is known as “bad cholesterol.”
- HDL: They transport cholesterol from the tissues to the liver to be metabolized and eliminated. It is commonly known as “good cholesterol.”
How Is Your Cholesterol
When we have high blood cholesterol levels we do not have to notice anything since, as I said before, it does not produce symptoms. For this reason, it is convenient to have a blood test periodically being recommended to be at the following levels:
- Total cholesterol: DESIRABLE <200mg / dl. LIMIT 200-239mg / dl
- HDL “good cholesterol”: women> 50mg / dl and men> 40mg / dl
- LDL “bad cholesterol”: DESIRABLE <100mg / dl and LIMIT 130-159mg / dl
- TG: DESIRABLE <150mg / dl
Genetics, Habits, & Cholesterol
Some people are genetically predisposed to have high cholesterol. It is known as “familial genetic hypercholesterolemia” and produces a tendency to raise LDL cholesterol. Although this predisposition exists, it is essential to take care of your diet, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid tobacco. Diseases such as obesity or hypothyroidism, or situations such as menopause are also associated with hypercholesterolemia.
Diet and physical activity are two great pillars that can predispose a person to have high cholesterol. A diet rich in saturated fat and low in fiber, due to low consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain products, can cause an increase in total cholesterol and LDL, thus increasing cardiovascular risk.
Hypercholesterolemia is the main cause of cardiovascular diseases, but there are other risk factors such as tobacco, high blood pressure, being overweight, obesity, diabetes, or alcohol consumption. (4) They are factors that are directly related to lifestyle and eating habits, and the positive reading you should make of them is that they are modifiable factors, and therefore it is in our hands to improve them.
Concerning diet, we must not only reduce the cholesterol that we contribute through food but also take care of the diet as a whole since some compounds can modulate the absorption of cholesterol. To do this, the following must be taken into account:
- Reduce the consumption of saturated fatty acids present mainly in fats of animal origin (red meat, organ meats, sausages, dairy products, and derivatives such as cheeses, ice cream, or butter), processed foods, industrial pastries, vegetable oils such as palm and coconut.
- Promote or increase the consumption of unsaturated fatty acids: olive oil, fatty fish (sardines, salmon, anchovies), avocado, nuts, seeds.
- Limit the intake of cholesterol in the diet (maximum 300mg cholesterol/day).
- Consume fruits, vegetables, and vegetables in the daily diet.
- Include legumes, whole grain products (pasta, rice, bread), nuts, and seeds to reach a daily intake of 25-30g of fiber. Specifically, soluble fiber (legumes, fruits, oat bran) limits the absorption of cholesterol and can reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 10%.
- Avoid fried and battered. Cook in the oven, steam, grill, or stew (at home).
Limit as much as possible the contribution of sugars (sugar, pastries, sweets, chocolate, soft drinks, juices).
Other Approaches To Hypercholesterolemia
- Include plant sterols in the diet as they inhibit the absorption of cholesterol, affecting both cholesterols from the diet and that produced by the body itself. It can be effective in those who have high cholesterol but do not require drug treatment.
- Sterol intake of 2g / day lowers LDL cholesterol, with almost no effect on HDL.
There are supplements such as Cholesterol Complex, which is a complex that combines several ingredients, including phytosterols and Monacolin K, that work synergistically, that is, they act together to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels.
- It is 100% natural, without additives, and suitable for vegans.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Perform physical exercise. 30-60 minutes a day of moderate-intense exercise can increase HDL cholesterol by 5-10%. (5)
- Keep a healthy weight. In the case of being overweight, the first step to improve cholesterol levels should be weight loss.
- Adjust the caloric intake of the diet. Avoid eating above our energy needs.