Truth About Cholesterol: MUST READ
One of the major concerns among diabetics is heart problems. Majority of the people suffering from diabetes deal with this complication and face the increased risk of heart failure in their lifetime.
Remember the time you got diagnosed with diabetes; your doctor may have performed different test to confirm the disease. Among all the test report, you will find that they also checked your cholesterol levels, just reopen your medical report and I am sure you will find your cholesterol levels in the name of “lipid profile”
But why the doctors checked your cholesterol level during diagnosis of diabetes (which is related to blood sugar)?
Does cholesterol level indicate anything about your health?
Are there any steps to control cholesterol levels?
In this article, we will try to understand “what cholesterol is” and how it affects our health (especially for person living with diabetes)
What is Cholesterol?
Most of the people have heard the term cholesterol and they have preconceived notion that it is bad for our health. Even my 7-year-old neighbor have heard this term and knows that it is somewhat related to heart problems.
Such awareness is all due to advertisements that we see on our television. Everyday me may come across ads of product which claims to be “cholesterol free” or “good for heart”
Also, the increased cases of heart problems have given a lot of bad press to cholesterol and it has left no stone unturned to demonize it.
But what if I tell you that the information/notion we have about cholesterol is half-baked and we are seriously failing to understand it fully.
So lets first start with the basics; what is cholesterol?
It is kind of a waxy substance that is found in our body cells.
Is Cholesterol bad? How could it affect our health?
There are different types of cholesterol and not all of them are bad. In fact, some of them are helpful and benefit our body in different ways.
Most of us also believe that our food is the major contributor to develop cholesterol in our body, this idea is far away from the truth. Truth about cholesterol is that only 25% of the cholesterol comes from our diet and rest of it get produced from our body itself (our liver)!!!!
So if cholesterol is so bad, then why our body make effort to produce it on its own?
Because cholesterol provides certain health benefits, in fact, we cannot survive without cholesterol and if we reduce it to the low level, we will face various health issues.
There are various studies that indicate that people with low cholesterol levels tend to have anger issues and are prone to depression.
Cholesterol is needed by our body:
1.To form cell membranes/hormones/bile acid
2.Responsible for synapse formation which is required for neuron connections so that we can think or learn new things
3. Regulates serotonin (which affects our mood); in fact, it has been found that people with an extremely low level of cholesterol are prone to depression. Who could have thought that the cholesterol which we thought as a major culprit for heart attacks can be the cause of severe depression
4. Regulate cell process and protein pathway in cells
So if cholesterol has so many benefits to offer, then why our doctors ask to stay away from it.
Why there is so much bad press in media?
Why then the companies are producing products that are “cholesterol-free”?
In order to find if cholesterol is good or bad, we need to understand that the cholesterol is a very loose term and there are different types of it.
Let me explain the different forms of cholesterol; whenever you revisit your lipid profile, you will definitely come across these terms; so if you are reading this article, take out your report and figure out the information yourself.
1. HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein): This cholesterol is good for you, it doesn’t cause any harm and in fact, helps your body to remove arterial plaque (which cause heart problems)
2. LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein): This is a bad cholesterol, it forms plaque in your arteries making it narrow and less flexible, which may cause heart attack or stroke.
Now there are different sizes of LDL, the ones which are smaller in size cause more damage than large size LDL.
3. Triglycerides: These are the bad fats found in our blood and cause serious damage to our blood circulation system. Eating too much of refined sugar, grains and smoking cigarettes can raise the level of this cholesterol
Now, what are the right cholesterol levels?
Generally, it has been stated by the doctors that total Cholesterol level below 200mg/dl and LDL below 100mg/dl are good numbers.
But these numbers don’t give us the complete picture. In other words, some people develop heart problems even if there total cholesterol level is below 200mg/dl and for some even high numbers may not cause any problems.
But why this is so?
Because the total cholesterol levels and LDL values don’t give us complete pictures.
Remember I told you that there are large LDL and Small LDL, and the smaller ones are more harmful.
So suppose your LDL is 95mg/dl;
this number will give you no information about how much large and small LDL’s are within our body, so how can you predict that you are at high risk of getting the heart attack.
In order to get more clarity about your body health, consider looking at the following parameters;
a. HDL/Total Cholesterol Ratio: It’s important for us to maintain certain level of “good cholesterol-HDL” in our body; Generally the percentage should be above 24%
b. Triglyceride/HDL: The ratio should be around 2
This is the most important parameter judge your risk of heart health/stroke. Getting number beyond 2 will incidentally increase your risk of getting heart attack
c. Fasting Blood Sugar
Apart from the above two important ratios, it’s been found that the fasting blood sugar can also indicate the risk of getting heart disease. People with fasting levels of 100-125 mg/dl blood sugar have 300% increased heart risk than people who maintain fasting sugar around 79mg/dl
d. High Iron Level
Large amount of iron in the body can also be damaging to your heart health; iron tends to cause oxidative stress in arteries and damages its functionality
I have high numbers what should I do?
If your numbers are high then you need to take steps immediately before the damage goes out of control. Here are the following few steps you can take:
1. Reduce/Eliminate Sugar and Grains from diet
Sugar/Grain tends to increase triglyceride levels in the body. It is wise for you to reduce or completely eliminate from your diet.
Our markets are full of products that contain high levels of processed sugar, even the daily food (like bread, roti, rice) we eat contribute heavily to develop unhealthy food in our body. Even the so-called healthy fruits are full of fructose and can seriously impact our health.
Try to switch your diet to green vegetable or foods that contain healthy fat like avocados, green vegetables, grass-fed meat, eggs, etc which contain good fats.
2. Quit smoking
Try to quit smoking; I know its easier said than done but believe me your effort in the right direction may certainly help. Try to join community center or organization that help people to quit, your small step can make huge difference in your health
3. Exercise Daily
Always spare at least 30 minutes for workout
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