Despite efforts to spread awareness regarding cholesterol and health, there are things about cholesterol that are still unknown to many. So, before you finish off an entire bowl of bulalo, find out about the basics of cholesterol metabolism. Your arteries will thank you for it.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the body needs for normal functioning. It is necessary for the body to produce hormones, vitamin D, and bile. It is transported in the body by lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are combinations of fats (lipids) and proteins, hence the name. There are several types of lipoproteins, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). Since fat is less dense compared to protein, the higher the fat content of a lipoprotein, the lower the density.
LDL is known by many as “bad cholesterol,” while HDL is called “good cholesterol.”
LDL carries cholesterol to the different tissues of the body. Within normal levels, LDL is necessary for normal functioning. But in excess, LDL deposits cholesterol in arteries, leading to arterial wall inflammation and arterial blockage. This is why LDL is dubbed as bad cholesterol.
HDL transports cholesterol from different body tissues back to the liver so that the cholesterol can be excreted in the bile. Acting as good cholesterol, HDL protects the blood vessels from clots and plaques, especially if levels are more than 60 mg/dL.
Called dyslipidemias, cholesterol problems are of many types. These conditions can be a combination of any of the following: elevated triglycerides (TAG), elevated bad cholesterol (LDL), and low good cholesterol (HDL) levels, among others. These dyslipidemias manifest as a combination of genetic mutations and environmental factors.
How do you control your cholesterol problems?
Aerobic exercise for 30 to 60 minutes five days a week is recommended, coupled with 20 to 30 minutes of weight training twice a week, according to the 2011 American Heart Association Guidelines.
Reduce or altogether avoid alcohol. Alcohol intake contributes to the increase of triglycerides. Even fruit juice and soft drinks increase triglycerides, so these should be consumed minimally as well.
The addition of “healthy fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) to the diet can help lower triglycerides and LDL while increasing HDL. Omega-3 fatty acids, a class of polyunsaturated fatty acids, are known to specifically lower triglycerides.
Here, some dietary advice:
- Carbohydrates. Should cover a just a bit more than ¼ of your plate.
- Fruits, vegetables. Have more than five servings daily.
- Meat. Have one or two portions of lean meat daily.
- Fish. Have more than twice a week.
- Eggs. Have only three a week.
- Oils, fat spreads. Spray oil instead of pouring it into a pan.