Cholesterol is a fat-like substance made in the liver and found in certain foods such as dairy products, eggs and meat. Cholesterol isn’t bad, it is essential for the proper functioning of the body, however, too much cholesterol can have several side effects including increased risk of heart disease.
Good Cholesterol versus Bad Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad cholesterol. The fatty deposits formed by the LDL in the blood vessels prevent the blood from flowing to the heart or to the brain, thus increasing the risk of a heart attack or a stroke.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol as it transports excess cholesterol to the liver, which removes it from the body.
What raises your cholesterol level?
Some uncontrollable factors such as age, gender, and family history contribute to high cholesterol levels. For instance, women after menopause are more likely to have higher LDL. Also LDL level goes up as we get older (in men aged 45 years or older and women aged 55 years or older).
Other factors include:
- A diet rich in trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, red meat, and full-fat dairy products.
- Being overweight.
- Having a large waist circumference (over 102 centimeters for men and 89 centimeters for women).
- Being physically inactive.
- Smoking as it damages the blood vessels and makes them more prone to deposit fat.
- Diabetes as high blood sugar contributes to higher LDL.
Therefore, a healthy lifestyle plays a key role in preventing high cholesterol levels:
- Replace bad fats (saturated fats) found in meat, poultry skin, full-fat dairy, and eggs. Use good fats (unsaturated fats) in moderation. Good fats can be found in:
- vegetable oils
- fish (salmon, trout, catfish, mackerel) rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- flaxseeds and walnut
- Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes.