More emphasis has been placed on the need for healthier lifestyles in recent years, including maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Cholesterol refers to fat or lipid carried through the bloodstream, and maintaining optimum levels is an important step towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The effects of cholesterol on our health are widely known, though many people don’t know what it takes to keep our levels healthy. Before we look at some tips for addressing your high cholesterol, we need to look at some of its effects.
You may have heard of the effects high cholesterol levels have on your health. Most people commonly link it to heart problems and obesity. While these effects are true, it goes deeper than this. In this segment, we take a detailed look at the impact of high cholesterol levels on different aspects of your health and wellbeing.
Cholesterol is an essential part of the brain and contributes to optimum brain function. It plays a significant role in the development of nerve cells. However, too much cholesterol in the arteries is a leading cause of strokes. It also contributes to the loss of memory and brain function. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, high cholesterol levels have been found to speed up the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, which cause damage to the brain.
Cholesterol is essential to the digestive system as it plays a role in the production of bile which is key to the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients in the intestines. However, too much cholesterol in the digestive tract forms crystals that transform into hard stones in the gallbladder that can be extremely painful.
Too much cholesterol in the body builds up in the arteries, causing clogs and reducing flexibility. Atherosclerosis—the hardening of arteries—often impairs blood flow forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood through the arteries.
The buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries can affect the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart muscles leading to angina (a form of chest pain). Although it is not a heart attack, it is a warning that you are at risk for a heart attack.
With the health risks posed by high cholesterol, it is only natural to want to explore different ways to lower your cholesterol levels. There are a number of lifestyle and dietary changes you can adopt to gain control over your cholesterol.
Some foods rich in soluble fibers include beans, whole grains, apples, flax, citrus, and legumes. Our digestive tracts do not produce the proper enzymes needed to break down soluble fibers, so they move through the system absorbing water to form a thick paste. It absorbs bile as it moves through the digestive system, which helps break down fats before being excreted in the stool.
Since bile is made from cholesterol, the liver extracts cholesterol from our bloodstream, which naturally reduces cholesterol levels. Ideally, you should consume about 5 to 10 grams of soluble fibers every day.
This is the easiest way for you to lower your cholesterol levels. On average, an adult who takes at least four servings of vegetables and fruits each day has 6% lower cholesterol than those who eat fewer servings. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in antioxidants that prevent cholesterol oxidation to form plaques in the arteries. In addition, this reduces your risk of developing heart disease.
Spices and herbs have plenty of minerals and antioxidants. According to studies, turmeric, garlic, and ginger effectively reduce cholesterol levels when consumed regularly. You can lower your cholesterol levels by up to 9% by eating a clove of garlic every day for three months. The antioxidation properties of herbs and spices also prevent the formation of plaques in your arteries. Dried oregano, thyme, clove, cinnamon, allspice, mint, and sage are some of the best antioxidants.
Foods contain two types of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats have no double bonds; hence they pack together and stay solid at room temperature. On the other hand, unsaturated fats have at least one double bond and a bent shape, which prevents them from packing tightly together. As a result, they remain in a liquid state at room temperature.
By replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, you can lower the cholesterol levels by up to 9% and LDL cholesterol by 11% in as little as eight weeks. Some of the foods with heart-healthy unsaturated fats include fatty fish, nuts, olives, and avocados.
Green tea comes from heated and dried Camellia sinensis. According to research findings, daily consumption of green tea over two or more weeks can lower cholesterol levels by an average of 7 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol by about 2 mg/dL. Green tea can lower cholesterol by reducing the production of LDL by the liver and removing it from the bloodstream.
Green tea also contains antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thus preventing the formation of plaques in the arteries. By taking a cup of green tea daily, you can significantly lower your susceptibility to heart disease.
High cholesterol levels are linked to heart disease, memory loss, strokes, and gallstones. Changes such as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, using herbs and spices, taking unsaturated fats and soluble fibers, drinking green tea can help lower your cholesterol levels.