Excess cholesterol

Excess cholesterol: Practical guide on what to do to reduce it

High levels or excess cholesterol in the blood are often associated with important pathologies and therefore it is a condition that raises many concerns. Let’s see what to do when these levels rise above normal values.

  • Practical tips to reduce cholesterol
  • Recommended foods
  • Foods to be eliminated
  • Specific supplements

The cholesterol is a lipid present in our body that has a dual origin: endogenous, that is synthesized by the body, and exogenous, that comes from the food we eat.

We usually associate this molecule with something harmful to our body, but it is not so. Cholesterol is an important component of the plasma membrane (i.e. the outer coating) of all cells to which it gives stability and fluidity. Various hormones are also synthesized from cholesterol and is an indispensable molecule for many cellular functions. It is also involved in the formation of bile by the gallbladder.

Most of the cholesterol is produced by our body and to a lesser extent it is taken in through food. Cholesterol is carried in the blood by molecules called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins: high density lipoproteins (High Density Lipoprotein), called HDL, and low density lipoproteins (Low Density Lipoprotein) called LDL.

The former transport cholesterol from the bloodstream to the liver, where cholesterol is degraded to be eliminated and for this reason they are also called “good cholesterol”, while the latter transport cholesterol to the cells of the various districts of the body and are called also “bad cholesterol”.

This is because LDLs can easily undergo oxidation phenomena and settle on the artery wall, forming the so-called atherosclerotic plaques, extremely harmful because they stiffen the vessels preventing normal blood circulation. Actually, LDL cholesterol is not bad in itself, it is dangerous only if in excess.

Practical advice to keep cholesterol under control

The blood level of total cholesterol should not exceed 200 mg / dl and the level of LDL cholesterol should remain below 130 g / dl, while it would be desirable that HDL cholesterol had values greater than 39 mg / dl in men and 45 mg / dl in women.

When these values are outside these limits, the first thing to do is to intervene by changing the lifestyle habits. Physical activity has been shown to help keep total cholesterol values in check by raising HDL cholesterol values.

Even quitting smoking helps to lower cholesterol levels and in general to reduce cardiovascular risk.

It is also essential to avoid being overweight, so people with a high body weight should follow a low calorie diet. Furthermore, it is also necessary to change one’s diet from a qualitative point of view: the consumption of unsaturated fats should be preferred, limiting instead of saturated fats and increasing the amount of fiber in the diet.

Recommended foods limit excess cholesterol

So let’s see which foods are preferred to keep your cholesterol levels under control.

  • Foods rich in fiber: vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, which allow in the first place to reduce the absorption of cholesterol and fats and are also a source of vitamins and antioxidants that reduce cardiovascular risk.
  • Foods rich in omega 3 fats: vegetable oils, such as flax seed oil, soybean oil, walnuts, blue fish (in particular mackerel, anchovies, but also herring and salmon), which lower the level of fat in the blood.
  • Foods rich in omega 6 fats: dried fruit such as nuts, almonds, oilseeds, hazelnuts , peanuts , legumes, which help to lower total cholesterol levels.
  • Foods rich in omega 9 fats: olives and olive oil that reduce LDL cholesterol.

Ultimately, a cholesterol lowering diet should include the consumption of whole wheat bread, pasta and rice, legumes, fish, lean meat, low-fat milk and yogurt, fruit and vegetables. Attention also to cooking methods, which must not include fries but steaming or boiling.

Foods to avoid to eliminate excess cholesterol

  • Animal fats as sources of saturated fats (butter, lard, lard);
  • Saturated vegetable fats (palm oil and refined coconut oil);
  • Offal since they contain a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol;
  • Whole milk and yogurt, prefer partially skimmed milk and yogurt;
  • Very fatty cheeses;
  • Coffee;

Specific supplements

Given that nutrition and lifestyle can contribute enormously to lowering blood cholesterol levels, in some cases it is necessary to use supplements or real drugs, when the doctor thinks he should prescribe them.

Some supplements used to reduce bad cholesterol levels are those based on fiber, precisely because the fibers, as we have seen, reduce the intestinal absorption of cholesterol. The chitosan, a molecule derived from chitin and present in the shell of crustaceans, is a polysaccharide that behaves like a fiber absorbing fats and sequestrandoli, then allowing its elimination through the feces.

Even the beta glucans, soluble fiber contained in grains such as barley and oats, have been found useful in lowering cholesterol levels in the blood, as well as plant sterols (phytosterols), contained in vegetable oils.

Finally, remember that among the most used supplements to lower cholesterol is fermented red rice, which contains monacolin K, a substance similar to statins, the drugs typically used against this disorder.

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