Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in our body. It is a steroid and an alcohol found in the body tissues and blood plasma of vertebrates. Cholesterol is produced by liver and also derived from diet. But cholesterol produced from liver is important as it strengthens cell membrane, helps in production of hormone and vitamin D. The cholesterol in blood stream, which blocks arteries, comes from diet.
High cholesterol in the blood is considered to be unhealthy .Increased cholesterol gets accumulated on walls of arteries as hard plaques. This narrows the lumen of arteries (Diameter of the arteries reduces. ) and interferes with the flow of blood. Due to reduced diameter the blood flow through arteries also gets reduced.
Recent researches have revealed that increased protein complexes of cholesterol, called lipoproteins are responsible for the cholesterol build-up in the blood vessels. Elevated levels of bad cholesterol or low density lipoprotein or LDL, are responsible for heart disease. Increased cholesterol can also cause erectile dysfunction.
Ayurveda acharyas have said that increased kapha and medha dhatu (body fat) cause almost all diseases that are caused by increased cholesterol. Increased kapha and medhas obstruct the body channels called srotas. Hence they advise the diet to reduce kapha and medas to avoid these diseases.
Measurement of Cholesterol
There are four types of cholesterol which are measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl). The body cholesterol level can be found through “Lipid Profile”
Total blood cholesterol – This measurement includes lipids in blood stream. ( LDL + HDL+ triglycerides and other fat particles). The normal value of total cholesterol must be less than 200 mg/dL
HDL (High Density Lipo protein) – This is a good cholesterol and helps to prevent atherosclerosis and prevents deposition of fat inside arteries. The normal value of HDL must be greater than 60 mg/dL
LDL (low-density lipoprotein)– This cholesterol is also known as bad cholesterol and this is an important risk factor for heart disease .The LDL level should be lower than 160 mg/dL
Triglycerides: These are used by our body for energy. But a high level of triglycerides leads to heart disease. The normal value of triglycerides must be less than 150 mg/dL
Health risks of increased cholesterol
Coronary heart disease
High blood pressure
Heart arrhythmias — an irregular heart rhythm
Transient ischemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke)
Peripheral artery disease.
Ayurvedic tips to Reduce cholesterol
1.Sweets, refined flours, red meat, animal fat and vegetable fats increase kapha and medhas. Hence these foods have to be consumed in less quantity.
2.Bitter foods like bitter gourd, methi (fenu greek seeds and leaves) etc should be included in diet.
3.Ayurveda acharyas recommend fasting in regular intervals of time. This helps to cleanse the body and also clear the channels.
4.Vyayama or exercises have to be included in daily routine. Exercises like brisk walking, jogging and swimming are best forms of exercises.
5.Texts of ayurveda eulogize the importance of dietary fibers in reducing kapha. They recommend to add bulk in diet through dietary fibers which becomes heavy to digest and stay for a long time in stomach thus avoiding hunger pangs.
6.Try to prepare recipes with less fat and do not forget to add garlic and spices as much as possible. Garlic and spices help in fat metabolism.
7.Spices like cumin seeds (jeera), turmeric (haldi), fenugreek seeds (methi), ginger, pepper help to increase fat metabolism
General Tips to reduce cholesterol
Here is the list of foods which help to reduce cholesterol. Judicious use of these foods definitely help to reduce cholesterol
•Include LEAN MEATS in diet. Lean meat of chicken, turkey and fish are low in cholesterol. These are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that are excellent for a person’s metabolism as well as in fighting off bad cholesterol.
•Consider including good quantity of VEGETABLES in your diet. They are low in calories and high in dietary fibers. Dietary fibers help to reduce cholesterol. Vegetables are excellent sources of minerals and vitamins such as vitamins C, E and K, vitamin B-complex, and other micronutrients that reduce vitamin deficiency. They help to reduce heart diseases, high blood pressure and cancer.
•Let WHOLE GRAINS be part of your diet. Grains supply good amount of energy and also supply dietary fibers. Whole grains are also known as effective in controlling weight. Aside from whole grains, breads, beans, potatoes, pasta, and cereals can also help lower cholesterol levels.
•Make it compulsory to have 3-4 servings of FRUITS. Just like vegetables, fruits are also among the top food groups that lower cholesterol because they are very low in calorie content. These also contain large amounts of significant vitamins and nutrients that help prevent of vitamin deficiency as well as other illnesses
•LEGUMES AND PULSES should be an inseparable part of your diet. These supply fiber, proteins and plenty of vitamins.
•Exercise regularly. A 30 minutes work out in gym or 45 minutes of brisk walk are considered as ideal exercises to reduce weight and also cholesterol level.
•Avoid fast foods which are rich in oil and sugar.
Keep cholesterol rich foods at bay to keep your body and heart healthy.