Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the cells in your body. Your liver makes most of the cholesterol in your body, and the rest comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol is important because it:
- Helps to produce hormones
- Helps your body make vitamin D
- Aids in digestion
Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream attached to proteins. These proteins are called lipoproteins. Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol through your blood:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): This is the “bad” cholesterol.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): This is the “good” cholesterol.
Cholesterol is essential for overall health, but too much LDL cholesterol running through your blood can lead to plaque buildup in your blood vessels over time. An essential factor to remember is that unhealthy LDL cholesterol doesn’t show any symptoms and can lead to a sudden health crisis. Therefore, learning about LDL cholesterol and maintaining a healthy level should be your priority.
LDL Cholesterol: An Overview
Lipids, such as cholesterol, are insoluble in water and require a carrier to transport them to various body parts. LDL, or Low-density Lipoprotein, is one such particular type of lipoprotein.
LDL cholesterol is considered ‘bad’ because when it reaches excess levels, it accumulates in the bloodstream and causes plaque. Over time, the plaque narrows the arteries and eventually causes a heart attack or stroke.
The liver produces very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which is then metabolised into LDL through a chain reaction involving specific lipases. It is interesting to note that LDL makes up most of the cholesterol in your body.
Ideal LDL levels
It is crucial to monitor your cholesterol levels closely, as increased LDL levels can lead to cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, and even death. Knowing the healthy LDL range is key to preventing these risks.
The normal LDL level is below 100 mg/dl, but it may differ depending on age, gender, and the presence or absence of risk factors such as family history, blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes. However, an LDL level above 100 mg/dl is not desirable for someone with diabetes or heart disease.
Here’s the general outline of LDL ranges.
- Less than 100 mg/dL: Optimal
- 100-129 mg/dL: Near optimal/above optimal
- 130-159 mg/dL: Borderline high
- 160-189 mg/dL: High
- 190 mg/dL and above: Very high
Causes of High LDL Cholesterol
As per WHO, Globally, a third of ischaemic heart disease is attributable to high cholesterol. Overall, raised cholesterol is estimated to cause 2.6 million deaths (4.5% of total) and 29.7 million DALYs, or 2% of total DALYs. There are many underlying causes, some of which are more treatable than others.
High LDL cholesterol is often a result of excess dietary cholesterol, bile, or imbalance in Cholesterol Synthesis and absorption in the Gastrointestinal Tract. Sometimes, high LDL cholesterol is hereditary, increasing the risk of familial hypercholesterolemia. In such cases, the body struggles to remove excess LDL cholesterol.
Some other common causes behind high LDL levels are:
- Physical inactivity
- An unhealthy diet including red meat, full-fat dairy sources, trans fats and processed fats
- Lack of quality sleep
- Certain medications
- Genetic disorders
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
The HealthifyMe Note
As people age, the risk of high cholesterol increases. That is because genetics, smoking, obesity, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity multiply the risk percentage. Since high LDL cholesterol does not necessarily have symptoms, it is crucial to monitor LDL levels regularly. Regular monitoring of LDL levels is vital among patients with hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.
Strategies to Achieve Healthy LDL Cholesterol Level
Achieving a healthy LDL cholesterol level may seem challenging, but it is not impossible. Here are some of the best lifestyle changes to help you reach your cholesterol goal.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables can help control cholesterol levels and assist in living a healthy life. Make sure to include oatmeal, kidney beans, apples and other fibre-rich foods to lower cholesterol absorption in the blood.
Stick to moderate or high-intensity exercise and practise it for 45-60 minutes, at least 3-4 times weekly, to reduce LDL and increase good cholesterol.
Studies show that a body mass index of 30 or more will lead to high LDL cholesterol. Hence, losing weight can have a positive impact on cholesterol.
Smoking makes cholesterol stickier. Nicotine in tobacco causes a decrease in the HDL cholesterol level, leading to an accumulation of lipids in the arterial wall. And hence it clings to your artery walls and clogs them up.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol breaks down and rebuilds into triglycerides. When triglycerides level goes high, they can build up in the liver, causing fatty liver disease. As a result, the liver can’t work as well as it should and can’t remove cholesterol from your blood, leading to a rise in cholesterol levels.
Reduce Saturated and Trans Fats
While adapting to a healthy diet, opt for foods with low saturated and trans fats. In addition, foods like baked goods, sugary snacks or deep-fried foods will negatively affect your cholesterol level.
Maintaining an ideal range of LDL cholesterol levels is vital to preventing the onset of cardiovascular diseases. Simple lifestyle changes, like following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, can help lower your bad cholesterol level. Creating these positive changes in your life will also have a profound impact on your overall well-being.
So if you want to understand what you must eat and what lifestyle changes you should make to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, talk to an expert from HealthifyMe and start your journey to a healthy life.