What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found naturally in our blood and all our body cells. It is an important part of the cell membranes and nerve sheaths. Also, our body uses it to make vitamin D, bile acids and certain hormones like cortisone, aldosterone and sex hormones – estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
It’s normal and healthy to have cholesterol but very high levels of cholesterol are dangerous.
Where do we get it from?
Cholesterol is naturally found in our body (endogenous) as well as in the food we eat (exogenous).
The cholesterol we get from food is absorbed from the stomach, into the bloodstream and circulates with our blood. Cholesterol and blood can be compared to oil and water. They don’t mix. So for the cholesterol to move through the bloodstream, to reach the cells that need it, it has to bind to proteins to form lipoproteins which are of two major forms –
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), that carry cholesterol from our liver, to the cells that need it. Also known as “bad cholesterol”, they can build up in the walls of the arteries as plaques and lead to serious health problems like heart attack or stroke.
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL), called “good cholesterol” do the opposite and help remove the LDL cholesterol from the cells, into the bloodstream, back to the liver for elimination. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
What causes high cholesterol?
Diet: Cholesterol is only found in animal food products. Eating too many foods that contain high amounts of saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol increase the level of LDL cholesterol in our blood. Refined carbs such as white rice, white bread, soft drinks, and baked goods like cakes, pie crusts, frozen pizza, and cookies do the same.
- a kidney, liver or a thyroid disease.
- Hereditary: Familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited condition in which the person has high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) – 300 mg/dL or higher. This leads to atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease at a very early age.
They may experience xanthoma, which can appear as a yellow patch above the skin, or a lump underneath the skin.
- Other factors: Mental stress, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, smoking and high consumption of alcohol may also cause the liver to make LDL cholesterol in excess.
- Research shows that cholesterol levels tend to rise in men 40 yrs and above, and in women after menopause.
How to test for high cholesterol?
A blood test known as lipid profile or panel measures your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and a cholesterol-HDL ratio.
For a correct evaluation it is recommended not to eat or drink anything, apart from water, for approximately 9 hours before giving your blood sample.
Have your cholesterol checked up more frequently if you have a family history of high cholesterol, have high blood pressure, are overweight or you smoke or drink.
What does high cholesterol do to our body?
Increased level of LDL cholesterol in our blood is known as high cholesterol, hypercholesterolemia or hyperlipidemia. This, coupled with low levels of HDL cholesterol can cause a condition, known as atherosclerosis where deposits of fatty material pile-up in the inside wall of an artery making it difficult for enough blood to run through them.
There are no symptoms of high cholesterol. In most cases it only causes fatal emergencies. A blockage in the artery supplying blood to the heart will lead to a heart attack while an obstruction occurring in an artery supplying blood to the brain will lead to a stroke.
The good news is, it’s a risk you can control.
Control your cholesterol, don’t let it control you!
Daily cholesterol intake must not exceed 300 mg for healthy adults with normal cholesterol levels, and 200 mg for individuals at high risk for coronary heart disease or diabetes type 2, warn American Heart Association (AHA) and National Heart Institute.
Follow these simple lifestyle changes to lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise the “good” ones by 20-30 percent. You may still need to take some medicines to get your cholesterol back on track but you’ll definitely be able to lower the dose and thus the chances of side effects.
Ban Trans Fats: Limit your intake of foods full in –
- saturated fats like butter, fatty flesh like red meat, full-fat and low-fat dairy products, whole milk, fermented cheese, vegetable shortening, ice creams, palm oil and coconut oil.
- trans fats found in fried foods, baked goods – cakes, pie crusts, frozen pizza, and cookies, and stick margarines
- dietary cholesterol found in egg yolks, organ meats, and shellfish.
They raise your LDL, lower your HDL, and increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. When you go shopping, read the labels carefully. If you see “partially hydrogenated oil” on the package, be warned, that’s just a fancy name for trans fat.
Opt for Olive Oil: The “good” fats in olive oil benefit your heart. Substituting olive oil for butter may reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 15%, which is similar to the effect of a low dose of medication!
Scale Back: Losing as much excess weight as possible can help raise your good cholesterol and bring your bad cholesterol/triglycerides down. You don’t have to lose a lot of weight though. For every kilogram of weight that an obese person loses, they may be able to raise their HDL by .35 mg/dL.
If you’re overweight, drop it over time keeping a reasonable and safe goal of losing 1 to 2 kilograms a week.
Get Moving: Even if you are not overweight, being inactive can elevate LDL. Exercising at least two and a half hours a week is enough to raise HDL and lower LDL/triglycerides. Start slowly — even 10-minute-blocks of activity count.
Add Up on Fiber: Eat a lot more fiber-rich foods especially soluble fiber from foods like oats, flax seeds, barley, fruits and vegetables. Vegetables rich in soluble fiber include carrots, brussels sprouts, beets, okra, beans, peas and eggplant. Good fruit sources are berries, passion fruit, oranges, pears, apricots, avocados, nectarines, and apples.
Eating more fiber not only is good for lowering cholesterol, it also makes you feel full so you won’t crave snacks as much. But be mindful and increase your intake slowly to avoid abdominal cramps or bloating.
Go Fish: Not only are the omega-3 fats in fish ‘heart-healthy’, replacing red meat with fish will lower your cholesterol by reducing your exposure to saturated fats, which are abundant in red meat.
Go Nuts: They contain sterols, which, like fiber, keep the body from absorbing cholesterol. Choose raw, dry-roasted or unsalted varieties to avoid blood-pressure-raising salt, but don’t go overboard as they are high in calories. An ounce packs about 175!
Chill Out: Did you know that your cholesterol can skyrocket when you’re stressed? Relax. Get drowned in a good book, meet a friend for coffee, or take to your yoga mat. It’ll help keep your cholesterol in check.
Spice It Up: Do dust your cappuccino with cinnamon or shake pepper on your pasta. Spices like garlic, curcumin, ginger, black pepper, coriander, and cinnamon do more than just flavor your food. They can also improve cholesterol! Eating half to one clove of garlic each day could lower cholesterol up to 9%. Swallowing instead of chewing avoids garlic breath.
Butt Out: Smoking can raise LDL and lower HDL. Quitting often has a reverse effect. People who stop smoking can see their “good” cholesterol rise up to 5% in one year. But if you’re regularly around smokers, be warned! Passive smoking can also raise bad cholesterol.
Laugh More: It works like medicine in raising your HDL. Do add some comic relief to your life – check out silly pet videos online, or sign up for a joke-a-day email or whatsapp, or watch funny movies.
Hydrate more: Drink eight to ten glasses of water a day. Have a glass of red wine at dinner. It increases your “good cholesterol”.
Bringing Your Cholesterol Down With Homoeopathy
Although Homoeopathy has a number of sure-shot remedies like Allium Sativum (garlic), Guatteria Gaumeri, Cholesterinum, Crataegus, Fel tauri, Veratrum album to bring down your cholesterol levels, it’s equally important to hit the altered constitution with the right constitutional remedy like Sulphur, Psorinum, Calcarea and the likes, to set the deranged metabolism right, holistically.
Aurum met, Adonis and Baryta mur are excellent for the hardened arteries due to high cholesterol. They have the inherent power to dissolve the cholesterol deposits that have clung to the arterial walls.
Homoeopathic gems like Strophanthus Hispidus are successfully used in reducing the extreme effects of high cholesterol especially in tobacco smokers.
Chelidonium, Curcuma, Carduus marianus and Taraxacum drain the liver of cholesterol deposits. Nux vomica can remove liver toxicity caused by alcohol or food abuse and Uranium nitricum wonderfully treats high cholesterol with diabetes.
Bonus — Homoeopathic medicines detoxify your body and bring about a lasting cure with an added advantage of no-side-effects.