Cholesterol is often called –‘the curse of affluent societies ‘. Progress has given us industrialization, untold wealth together with hypertension, cholesterol, and heart attacks.
Now, what is cholesterol? It is a molecule built around the cyclopentanone phenanthrene backbone and is an integral part of human cell membranes and human steroid hormones and bile acids. It is needed in varying amounts by the human body and actually, it is its excess levels in the bloodstream which cause disease and is responsible for its notoriety.
According to the lipid hypothesis abnormally high concentration of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and low concentrations of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol, predispose to atheroma formation or formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the coronary arteries which supply the heart. The lumen of the arteries are thus narrowed preventing the flow of blood and oxygen with its inevitable consequence which is myocardial infarction or the ‘heart attack’
The basic material for the synthesis of cholesterol is Acetyl co-enzyme A which comes from the oxidation of fatty acids from fatty foods by the human body. So, if somebody asks you ‘How to lower cholesterol, be sure to tell him that the cardinal rule is to cut down on fatty foods. If you are to eat fats, eat diets low in saturated fats or trans fats.
For dairy and cheese products go for the low-fat version instead of the regular product.
Acetyl coenzyme A also occurs during the breakdown of glucose by the Emden-Meyerhof pathway so you must cut down on the content of sugar and sweetened beverages like cola drinks.
If ‘how to lower cholesterol ‘ is your motto you must know that cholesterol is found mostly in fatty cuts of meat, poultry with skin, lard, and in certain types of vegetable oil, like coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils. You have to try your best to avoid such foods and choose food high in starch and fibers.
Related: How To Lower Cholesterol With Diet
If you cannot avoid fatty foods be sure to increase your physical activity so that your body burns the fats and you do not gain weight. Remember obesity increases the risk factor for both diabetes and cardiac disease. Exercise increases the amount of good cholesterol or HDL in the body and reduces the concentration of LDL or bad cholesterol.
To exercise, it is not that you have to participate in a marathon. Any aerobic activity like walking, jogging, or cycling for 30 minutes a day is good enough.
There are certain foods that have been found to lower cholesterol. It has been found that increasing the dietary intake of oat products significantly reduces LDL or bad cholesterol. Recent research has shown that sterols and stanols, which are natural substances found in many vegetables and plants lowers LDL levels by decreasing cholesterol absorption from the intestine, thus preventing it from getting into the bloodstream. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon and sardines significantly reduce LDL levels. Finally replacing unhealthy fats with monounsaturated fats as found in olive oil goes a long way towards cholesterol control.
Finally, if everything fails you have to take recourse to drugs to lower your cholesterol levels. The most commonly used ones are statins, resins, fibrates, Niacin, and cholesterol absorbing inhibitors.
Statins These drugs act by inhibiting the enzyme HMG –CoA reductase thus slowing down the synthesis of cholesterol. Cholesterol deposits in the arteries are also removed by this drug. Examples of this class of drugs include atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin rosuvastatin, and simvastatin
Resins Which are also called bile sequestrants lower LDL levels in the blood. Examples of these sequestrants include cholestyramine, colesevelam, and colestipol.
Fibrates These agents lower cholesterol by reducing the number of triglycerides in your bloodstream and increasing the level of good cholesterol or HDL. Examples of this class of drugs include fenofibrate and gemfibrozil.
Niacin Also called nicotinic acid, is a B vitamin. When consumed in large amounts it reduces triglyceride and LDL levels and increases HDL levels. Though this vitamin is available over the counter it should not be taken without a doctor’s prescription as it may cause serious adverse effects.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors. This is generally given in combination with a statin. It reduces the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed by your intestine. Ezetimibe is an example of this class of medicine.
So if you are wondering how to lower cholesterol the answer is not far away.