General Health

Can the Right Nutrition Help Avoid Hypercholestrolemia?

With routine life and work responsibilities, the body’s blood parameters never bother much until met by serious health conditions like heart attack, artery blockage, and stroke. Suddenly it is analyzed that there is an uncontrolled rise in blood cholesterol levels. A stunning discovery unwraps, that cholesterol building has started and was happening inside the body silently for a long time back. It has been there for ages and with the right lifestyle habits, this may have been taken into control and handled well.

Managing high cholesterol is not a short-term process, it’s a life-long determination. This needs the right awareness, proper guidance, lifestyle advice, and an inner urge to always be health progressive.

What is cholesterol?

It is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the walls of all parts of the body, from the nervous system to the liver to the heart. Cholesterol is used to make hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. The body makes all the cholesterol it needs and circulates it in the bloodstream but cannot travel by itself. Cholesterol (which is fatty) and blood (which is watery) do not mix. So cholesterol travels in packages called lipoproteins, which have fat (lipid) inside and protein outside.

What does a blood cholesterol report mean?

A routine lipid profile test is done after a 9- to 12-hour fast and gives information about the body’s

Total cholesterol-

  • <200mg/dL(desirable)
  • 200-239 mg/dL(borderline high)
  • 240mg/do or above (high)

LDL (bad) cholesterol (– the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries )

  • 100mg/dL(optimal)
  • 100-129mg/dL(near optimal or above)
  • 130-159mg/dL(borderline high)
  • 160-189mg/dL(high)
  • 190mg/dl or above(very high)

HDL (good) cholesterol – helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries 

It protects against heart disease. A level less than 40 mg/dL is low and is considered a major risk factor because it increases the risk of developing heart disease. HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or more help to lower the risk for heart disease.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides can also raise heart disease risk. Levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) need treatment.

How does hypercholesterolemia cause heart disease?

It is a condition when the LDL cholesterol level in the body becomes too high. Some of the excess cholesterol becomes trapped in artery walls. Over time, this builds up and forms plaque. The plaque narrows blood vessels making them less flexible and causing “hardening of arteries” or atherosclerosis.

This process can happen to blood vessels anywhere in the body. If the coronary arteries become partially blocked by plaque, then the blood may not be able to bring enough oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. This causes chest pain or angina. Some cholesterol-rich plaques are unstable; they have a thin covering and burst, releasing cholesterol and fat into the bloodstream. The release causes a blood clot to form over the plaque, blocking blood flow through the artery and causing a heart attack.

Factors that affect Cholesterol Levels?

Modifiable factors- These can be changed to improve blood cholesterol values 

  1. Diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol
  2. Obesity and excess visceral fat
  3. Sedentary lifestyle and very low physical activity

Non-modifiable factors 

  1. Increasing age
  2. Menopausal women
  3. Heredity and family history with high cholesterol values

Who is at a very high risk to develop hypercholesterolemia-associated heart disease?

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher or on blood pressure medication)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL)
  • Family history of early heart disease
  • Age (men 45 years or older; women 55 years or older)

Which are the healthy lifestyle changes to prevent hypercholesterolemia?

To follow a heart-healthy diet,

  1. Eat a balanced diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein sources
  2. Choose heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Limit saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol intake
  3. Opt for olive, canola, safflower, and sunflower oils
  4. Avoid coconut oil, ghee, butter, and cottonseed oil usage
  5. Have a handful of unsalted nuts & seeds regularly
  6. Limit refined carbohydrates especially sugar, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages
  7. Choose home-cooked foods instead of processed & junk food
  8. Eat more plant-based or vegetarian meals using beans and soy foods for protein
  9. Stop or limit alcohol consumption
  10. Read and understand food labels carefully
  11. Strictly prohibit active and passive smoking
  12. Take adequate rest and manage stress positively

Consume foods rich in viscous (soluble) fiber 

  • It is found only in plant-based foods
  • In the stomach, viscous fibers absorb water and swell to form a thick, jelly-like mass & help lower LDL cholesterol level
  • Rich sources are asparagus, sprouts, sweet potatoes, turnips, apricots, mangoes, oranges, legumes, barley, oats, and oat bran
  • Eat at least 5 to 10 grams of viscous fiber each day
  • Increase fiber intake gradually, also increase the amount of water consumption to prevent constipation

Consume fortified foods or supplements with plant sterols and stanols

  • They are found naturally in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
  • To the body, sterols and stanols look like cholesterol and prevent the cholesterol eaten from food from being absorbed into the bloodstream
  • This lowers bad cholesterol levels
  • Include it in daily routine with the doctor’s guidance only

Be more physically active and attain the right body weight

  • Set a plan to get about 30 minutes of exercise routinely
  • Reduce obesity and maintain ideal body weight and waist circumference

Routine blood test 

  • Keep a regular check on blood lipid reports
  • Consult a doctor and follow prescribed medication and suggestions dedicatedly

Limit consumption of 

  • High-fat baked goods, such as doughnuts, biscuits, croissants, pastries, pies, cookies
  • Snacks made with partially hydrogenated oils, including chips, cheese puffs, snack mixes, regular crackers,butter-flavored popcorn
  • Bacon, Sausage, salami, organ meats, poultry with skin, fried meat, and fatty fish
  • Whole milk, 2% fat milk, cream cheese, cheese
  • Fried vegetables, Vegetables prepared with butter, cheese, or cream sauce
  • Fried fruits and fruits served with butter or cream
  • Butter, stick margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated oils
  • Candy and sugar-sweetened soft drinks

Conclusion

Becoming extra conscious about hypercholesterolemia should not start after a major mishap but it should be a part of daily routine from a young age, especially in high groups. Awareness, timely appropriate dietary modification guidance, and lifestyle management are the foundation to fighting the silent killer, high cholesterol-associated-heart disease.

The best way to lower bad cholesterol and keep the heart super strong for longer is to listen to the recommendations on diet, exercise, and medication and avoid self-experiments and unscientific health advice.

Listening to the body signals, being health proactive, and developing a strong determination to be healthy may not avert unexpected sudden health outbreaks. This will make the body and mindset to be prepared for the worst and give the strength and hope to bounce back to normal life again.

References

  1. Your Guide To Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC, NIH Publication No. 06–5235, December 2005
  2. National cholesterol education program, NIH Publication No. 05-3290
  3. heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating
  4. Academy of nutrition and dietetics
  5. Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases (2021) 31, 1325e1338

Author

Aparna Das Parmar

Aparna Parmar has over 8.5 years of rich experience in the field of nutrition and healthcare and is currently a corporate nutritionist.

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