What knocks your head when you hear the word cholesterol? Well, the sugars… diabetes… cholesterol heart attack… and a lot many negative words. Isn’t it? I am sure your brain goes “eww” hearing it.
But are cholesterols only bad? Does lowering cholesterol prevent heart attacks? And what if the level goes up? Should you check your heart health then?
Too many questions can leave you confused, and that’s where my posts come in handy. I’m ready to put away all your doubts regarding cholesterol. Are you ready? Assuming a yes from my side! So let’s go:
What is Cholesterol?
Let’s begin with its pronunciation, our dear readers! Say cheese! No sorry! Say: “kuh-LES-tuh-rawl.” An unsexy way to call it, but that’s how you’re going to address it from now.
Coming to its physical properties, the closest I can describe it is like wax streaming out of candles. Technically, it’s a fat-like substance in your bloodstream used to digest fat, produce vitamin D, and yield hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.
Now, where does it come from? A magical pouch? Kind of, if you consider liver that way! So the liver is the ultimate factory that delivers cholesterol to every single cell.
Though livers are extremely potent cholesterol producers, foods like meat, eggs, fish, butter, milk, and cheese are the external cholesterol sources.
And no! The sad news is you aren’t getting any cholesterol from external sources if you’re a vegan. Well, now you may ask why you need cholesterol after all. Isn’t it good your vegan diet doesn’t have cholesterol? That brings us to understanding cholesterol types.
What are cholesterol types?
I mentioned how cholesterols are always envisioned as something wrong for your heart health! Not true! Cholesterols have two versions:
#1 High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
HDL is what everyone calls “good cholesterol.” Imagine having bad cholesterol spread all across the bloodstream. Now that’s not healthy. Right? You want something to push aside these cholesterols.
There’s a saying, “bacteria kill bacteria, poison kill poison.” Similarly, cholesterol helps remove cholesterol.
Think of HDL or good cholesterol on a cleaning mission. It carries bad cholesterols from the body and pushes them back to the liver. The liver then ultimately removes these cholesterols from your body! Simple, isn’t it?
#2 Low-density lipoproteins (LDL):
Everyone calls LDL a “bad cholesterol,” but I don’t entirely agree with them because our bodies need it for specific functions. But it’s bad when it crosses a threshold limit in our bloodstream.
When you hear cholesterol causes heart attack, this is the cholesterol people are referring to. It usually sticks on the walls of arteries, making it harder for the blood to move smoothly.
So next time you hear cholesterol and heart attack in the same sentence, make sure you have the challenge to lower LDL levels.
Why is it good to have low cholesterol?
Please note when I talk of lowering cholesterol levels, I’m always pointing at lowering LDL and not HDL. As I mentioned, the fatty-protein of LDL is not healthy if you don’t keep it in check. Here’s why it is good to have a low cholesterol level:
- Low cholesterol level ensures your arteries don’t have plaque built-up.
- You obliterate the chances of having strokes, heart attacks, and peripheral artery disease.
- Less cholesterol also mitigates the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage in older adults.
- Pregnant women with high LDL carry a risk for premature birth or low birth weight. So reducing the cholesterol level automatically mellows the risk.
Is there any connection between Low cholesterol & Heart attack?
The cholesterol impact factor is way too much on heart health. The correlation between the two is more complex than the old research demonstrates.
Modern-day research on evolved lifestyles and heart health unveils many more information.
The association between cholesterol and heart health
In 2010, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans warned to limit dietary cholesterol below 300 milligrams per day. Later in the 2015-2020 guidelines, they didn’t mention the limit, but they did recommend having as little dietary cholesterol.
They revealed that respondents with healthy eating patterns and low dietary cholesterol showed less risk of heart disease. It means… they were less prone to the risks of a heart attack.
Another study in 2016 indicated that patients with increased LDL levels were more susceptible to developing heart diseases. And the final research confirmed that making minor dietary changes with better fat-quality reduced cholesterol and mitigated heart disease risk.
What are different risk factors for heart disease?
High blood cholesterol level is not the only reason for heart diseases. You may risk being a heart patient with these factors as well:
- diabetes and prediabetes
- history of heart disease in your family (genetics)
- being hefty, overweight, and obese
- high blood pressure
- preeclampsia while you’re pregnant
- unhealthy and untimely diet
- very less physical activity
Not saying you’ll definitely have heart disease with any of these pre-existing conditions, but you’ll have high chances of developing a heart condition compared to the ones who don’t have any of the problems.
– When you age
– When you have reached the menopause
Sure, you don’t have any control over family history and age, but you can fine-tune your diet and exercise to reduce heart risk.
What can lower high cholesterol?
Your body is already producing the required cholesterol. It would help if you managed dietary cholesterol more diligently. You need foods that help you prune down your LDL level and increase HDL. These items should have all the answers:
- Whole grains like barley
- Oats and oat bran
- Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemon, etc.
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines
- Beans and lentils such as kidney, navy, black-eyed peas, and garbanzo
- Dry nuts like peanuts, walnuts, and almonds
- Olive oil
- Apples, grapes, and strawberries as well
Healthy cooking tips for a healthy heart
You’re what you eat! Truly said. Yes! Whatever you eat makes the existing you. Whether you’re fit or unfit, everything depends on what you make most of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Does that mean changing your cooking plans can change your heart’s health? Well, of course! Your heart will be in a much better condition if you follow these cooking tips.
- Try to avoid butter, shortening, or lard and use canola, safflower, or Sunflower oil instead.
- Say goodbye to frying and welcome grilling, baking, and boiling.
- Don’t blast with fat drippings.
- Get all the fat off meats and have it.
- Cut shed the skin from poultry.
- If you use the oven, use a rack to drain the fat of poultry and meat.
The final argument on altering dietary cholesterol
Look! You don’t really need to make vast changes to your diet. A little tweak, here and there in your diet, should get you a healthy living. The easiest yet the best thing you can do is find alternatives with better fat-quality.
Reason number one, it will control your cholesterol, and reason number two, you want your heart to function correctly. Right? So don’t be a heart blocker and control heart attack cholesterol levels with wise dietary decisions.