Americans have the highest cholesterol in the world. I am not exaggerating. As per 2005 WHO statistics, American men rank 83rd in the world in average total cholesterol while the women rank 81st. In both the cases, the average number is 197 mg/dl, below the borderline and high risk categories.
Truth about cholesterol
Our bodies produce the necessary cholesterol required to get us through the day. Cholesterol is vital for the body to perform a variety of functions and every cell in the body produces its own cholesterol. While cells produce their own share of cholesterol, the liver is the primary part that performs the duty of delivering cholesterol along with other daily chores.
The body here needs carbon to make cholesterol which is one of the building blocks of life that is present in many foods, for instance, fats, proteins, carbohydrates etc. As a matter of fact, even if you go on a cholesterol free diet, your body will still be making tons of cholesterol.
Benefits of cholesterol
There are many benefits of cholesterol right from producing sex hormones to boosting the making of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is crucial for human life as it powers up the immune system in the body not to mention strong bones and muscles.
Did you know that your skin has a layer of cholesterol that helps in absorbing the sun’s radiation and converting them to hydroxyvitamin D? This radiation substance is sent to the liver to produce hydroxyvitamin D that is further pushed to the kidneys to convert them to usable vitamin D.
Cholesterol is a primary essence of plasma membrane or rather an outer coating of cells. The rigid feature of the cholesterol supports the cell’s structure and affects the fluidity inhibiting membranes from freezing.
We all know the importance of bile acid in the body – a healthy digestive system and a perfect body. But what you don’t know is that the body converts cholesterol to bile salts that are secreted to bile. Bile, in turn, breaks down the fats in the digestive system and turns the fat to minuscule proportions enabling easy interaction with the digestive enzymes. It also helps the small intestine to absorb the fats easily.
Myths about cholesterol
There are many myths surrounding cholesterol and its time we break them. Here are few of the myths decoded.
Cardiovascular disease affects those having high cholesterol.
No. Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon says that only half of the few people who visit hospitals for CVD have high cholesterol.
If you have high good cholesterol, you are likely to have heart attack.
Wrong again. As per a study conducted in 2012 that was published in The Lancet, people who are having high HDL is mainly because of genetic factors which does not negate the fact that he is lesser prone to heart attack.
Statins can prevent deaths from cardiac arrests.
Over the years, statin consumption has increased to a great extent with the hope of cutting CVD or strokes. But sorry to break this to you guys, but Statins have a lot of side effects and many complain of fatigue, memory loss, body pain etc.
Though one study showed lower risk from heart disease in women who consumed statins, basically there wasn’t much difference between those who took a statin and those who didn’t.
Only one study showed consistent beneficial effect post consumption of statin drugs and it included only middle-aged men who have previously suffered from heart attack.
Eating high cholesterol foods can raise the cholesterol level in your blood.
Years ago, people were warned about consuming foods such as eggs, shrimp etc. but now that people are realizing how nutritional foods work, it has come to the fore that cholesterol in the foods has a much lesser impact on blood cholesterol than other types of foods especially saturated fats.
Natural remedies to fight cholesterol
Though alternating your dietary lifestyle and exercise is the primary factor in cutting down cholesterol, there are many natural remedies that you can try after getting a nod from your medical practitioner for safety purposes.
- Garlic: not just your total cholesterol but can cut down many health issues right from cancer to chubby fat to arthritis to what not. Since garlic can prolong bleeding it should not be taken prior to surgery or blood thinning drugs.
- Guggulipid: a gum resin of mukul myrrh tree, it can cut down your total cholesterol level by a great extent. An Ayurvedic remedy used in India for more than 3000 years ago, guggulipid can cut down the blood levels of total and LDL cholesterol dramatically.
- Red yeast rice: was previously available in OTC drug called Cholestin. But then FDA took it off the shelf and currently does not allow promotion of red yeast rice for cutting down cholesterol. However, there are other red yeast rice containing supplements available.
- Ginger: contains anti-inflammatory agents that not only boost the immune system but also cut down the high LDL levels in the blood. A natural herb, use ginger in your tea, recipes or simply chew it raw for beneficial results. Ginger not only lowers blood pressure but also boosts the bile acid production delivering a healthy gut. Even kitchen spices such as turmeric, cumin seeds are quite beneficial in inhibiting growth of bad cholesterol in body.
- Nuts: such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios etc. can cut down your cholesterol level. Eating a handful of nuts (i.e 1.5 ounces) can alleviate the risk of heart disease. Replace saturated fat induced foods with nuts that are rich in fiber as well.
- Fiber foods: such as vegetables, legumes, grains, unrefined grains, fruits etc.) come with dietary fiber such as oat bran, psylilum seeds, citrus fruits, beans and lentils are quite effective in lowering cholesterol.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: eat foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids that cut down the risk of heart disease by lowering the triglycerides in the body.