What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance, present in many body tissues. It is an essential nutrient necessary for healthy cell membranes, as well as synthesis of vitamin D and some hormones. It is made in the liver from digested fats and is carried in the blood. Cholesterol is also present in certain foods, such as egg yolk and liver.

Blood cholesterol level is affected by the diet, since cholesterol is present in certain foods and is manufactured in the body from digested fats. High levels of cholesterol in the blood are associated with hardened arteries (known as atherosclerosis), coronary artery disease (heart attack), and stroke.

What is "bad" and "good" cholesterol?

There are many types of cholesterol. LDL or Low-density lipoprotein is the "bad" cholesterol, as it blocks the arteries. HDL or High-density lipoprotein is the "good" cholesterol, as it protects the arteries from clogging.

What are normal cholesterol levels?

Blood can be tested for the cholesterol level. The total cholesterol in the blood includes both HDL and LDL cholesterol. A total cholesterol level of less than 250 mg% is considered normal. High HDL levels (more than 60 mg%) reduce the risk for heart disease and low levels (less than 35 mg%) increase the risk.

How to control cholesterol?

Cholesterol levels can be kept in the normal range by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. It is important to eat the right foods (low cholesterol) to keep a healthy weight.

Avoid foods that contain a lot of cholesterol like meats and egg yellow. Eat less fat especially saturated fats, generally obtained from animal sources. Avoid fried foodstuff especially snacks and fast foods.

Eat more of fresh fruits, grains, vegetables and salads avoiding oil-based dressings, which can be substituted with vinegar or lemon-based dressings. Cook vegetables with herbs or spices instead of cooking oil or ghee. Use oils like sunflower, safflower, olive or corn oil. Avoid palm or coconut oil. Eat egg whites instead of whole eggs. Use low-fat dairy products like skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt or cottage cheese instead of cream or processed cheese.

What is the treatment for high cholesterol levels?

There are drugs known as statins that inhibit the liver enzyme used in the manufacture of cholesterol. They are the most effective drugs for the treatment of high cholesterol. They are recommended for most patients with high cholesterol levels, particularly those with diabetes, existing heart disease, or both.