What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, fat like waxy substance found in our blood and in all our body cells. It is normal and healthy to have cholesterol in our body. But very high levels in blood are dangerous. There are two types of cholesterol LDL (low density lipoprotein) which is called as bad cholesterol and HDL (high density lipoprotein) which is called as good cholesterol.
Where cholesterol is found in our body?
Cholesterol is naturally formed in our body and is also present in our food. Every cell in our body synthesizes cholesterol. The cholesterol present in the food after digestion is absorbed from the intestine and circulates in our blood. It is metabolized mainly in the liver.
What does cholesterol do to our body?
Cholesterol is a very important component of our body cells. But when too much cholesterol is present in our blood, it accumulates around the lining of arteries that carries blood to our organs. The accumulation of cholesterol inside the artery is called an atheromatous plaque. It is a thick hard deposit that leads to narrowing of arteries and reduces blood supply to the organs.
Which are the diseases caused by high cholesterol?
Usually high blood cholesterol does not cause any symptoms to the patient. It is detected when the doctor examines the patient and after measuring the blood cholesterol levels. The main diseases caused by high cholesterol levels are:
Heart diseases: High cholesterol levels cause atherosclerosis of arteries that results in narrowing and blockage of arteries and ultimately blood supply to the heart may be compromised. This leads to heart attack and can result in death or serious disease.
Stroke: Atherosclerosis of arteries which carries the blood to brain results in narrowing or blockage of the arteries to the brain, causing reduction in blood supply to the brain; this results stroke or brain damage and paralysis of the body.
What factors increase cholesterol levels in the blood?
Sedentary life style and lack of exercise
Obesity (over weight)
Alcohol and tobacco abuse
How to control your cholesterol?
Diet: Limit the amount of high fatty foods like red meat, butter, cheese, egg yolk, saturated fatty oils like coconut and palm oil. Eat foods like whole grain, fruits, vegetables, skin-less poultry, fish and lean meat without fat. Avoid fried items.
Physical activity: Regular exercise, brisk walking for half an hour daily and weight reduction are advised.
Drug treatment: In spite of the above measures, if the cholesterol levels are high it is better to consult your physician for treatment.
Dr. Kamaraj MD works in Internal Medicine at Shifa Al Jazeera Medical Centre in Farwaniya