Cholesterol being a fat substance is not soluble in blood and hence it is carried by proteins. This combination of fats and proteins are called the lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are of varies types and have various functions in the body. These are further classified depending on their density as low density lipoprotein, high density lipoprotein, very-low density lipoprotein and intermediate density lipoprotein.
The low density lipoprotein or LDL is commonly known as the badcholesterol carries cholesterol to the arteries which causes deposition of cholesterol in the walls of the arteries and thus causes narrowing of the lumen within the arteries, this may also lead to clogging up of arteries with a plaque ultimately resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Hence, high LDL levels are considered an important indicator of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. LDL level of 100 mg/dl or below are considered optimal.
The high density lipoprotein or HDL is also termed as the goodcholesterol. While LDL carries cholesterol to the blood vessels resulting in clogging of the arteries, HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver where cholesterol is broken down. Hence higher levels of HDL are desirable. HDL level of 60 mg/dl or above are considered optimal and protective against heart disease.
How to lower your LDL level and elevate HDL levels:
Healthy Diet: A diet low in saturated fats, and contains less than 200mg of dietary cholesterol per day is recommended. It may contain variety of nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or no-fat dairy products, fish, poultry without the skin, and lean meats. Whey protein present in dairy products lowers cholesterol levels. Legumes or nuts are known to reduce cholesterol level. Adequate consumption of garlic and onions helps to improve cholesterol levels. Green leafy vegetables reduce absorption of fat and cholesterol. Oatmeal in the morning is a healthy way to start your day. Substitute butter with olive oil. Grape fruits improve cholesterol. Green tea every day is a better habit than drinking coffee. Other herbs like Guggul and musta are also helpful.
Avoid Trans Fats: Trans fats increase bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol. These fats should be avoided as much as possible. Trans fats are proportionately higher in deep fried foods, cookies, crackers and snack cakes.
Weight Management: If you are overweight, lowering your weight can help lower LDL and is especially important for those with other risk factors like high triglyceride or low HDL levels or body mass index is greater than 30 kg/m2 or a waist measurement more than 40 inches for men or more than 35 inches for women.
Physical Activity: Regular physical activity with a minimum duration of 30 minutes for at least 4-5 days a week, is recommended for everyone.
Red Wine: one or two glasses of red wine every day is helpful to improve HDL levels and reduce LDL cholesterol in the body. Flavonoids in red wine contribute to improving cholesterol levels. Any type of red wine has similar effect on cholesterol.
Drug Treatment: Lifestyle changes have to be inculcated and maintained even if treatment with drugs is started. Lifestyle modifications not only help in maintaining a lower dosage of drugs but also in reducing other risk factors. There are several types of cholesterol-lowering drugs available, including:
Smoking cessation: tobacco smoking has harmful effects not just on cholesterol but on several organs in the body. Quitting smoking improves heart health in several different ways. It lowers cholesterol levels, reduces blood pressure and impedes the progression of atherosclerosis.
Reduce stress: There are studies to show that stress can increase cholesterol levels. It is easier said than done to avoid stress. Meditation, yoga and exercise are helpful to reduce stress in the body.
Statins: they reduce the levels of cholesterol by preventing its synthesis in the liver. They reduce LDL and increase HDL levels. Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor and Pravachol belong to this class.
Fibrates: They work by reducing the production of triglycerides. They are helpful in individuals with high triglyceride levels. Drugs like Lopid or Tricor belong to this class.
Bile acid sequestrants or Resins: they decrease the amount of fat absorbed from food. Drugs like Questran or Welchol belong to this class.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: they decrease the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food and lower triglycerides. Drugs like Zetia are available in this class.
Niacin: it prevents loss of HDL from the liver and lowers triglycerides.
Omega-3 fatty acids: they increase the level of HDL and lowers triglycerides in blood.