What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy and fat like substance present in all cells of your body. It is required to build cells, make vitamins and hormones in the body. Cholesterol is produced by the liver and additional cholesterol is introduced in your body through meat, poultry, and dairy products containing dietary cholesterol. These foods are high in saturated and trans fat which causes the liver to make more cholesterol. This may exceed the normal cholesterol level in your body. It is important to regularly check on your cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol circulates in your blood and if the amount of cholesterol in your blood increases, you are at high health risk. High cholesterol levels can cause cardiovascular diseases, such as cardiac arrest or stroke.
Cholesterol is of two types, LDL the “bad” cholesterol, and HDL the “good” cholesterol. Then there are triglycerides, the most common type of fat in the body that stores excess energy from your diet. When combined with high LDL or low HDL, it build-ups fats within the artery walls and increasing your chances of heart attack and stroke.
Importance of High and Low Cholesterol
High blood cholesterol increases the risk of coronary artery disease. Lower cholesterol is usually better, but in rare cases, a low level of lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol or a very low level of cholesterol, in general, is associated with some health problems.
Symptoms of Low Cholesterol
People with high LDL cholesterol often show no symptoms until a heart attack or stroke occurs. If there’s a blockage in a coronary artery, you will experience chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart muscle.
Whereas low cholesterol will show no sign of chest pain because of build-up fatty substances in an artery. Depression and anxiety can have many causes, low cholesterol being a possible reason.
Thus, symptoms of depression and anxiety include hopelessness, nervousness, confusion, agitation, difficulty in making a decision, mood swings, sleep, or change in eating patterns.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, consult a doctor. The doctor will most likely prescribe a blood test to determine your cholesterol level.
What causes Low Cholesterol?
There are several medical conditions for the causes of low cholesterol-like
- Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Liver disease
- Malabsorption or inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestines such as in celiac disease
- Abetalipoproteinemia, a rare genetic disease- cholesterol readings below 50 mg/dl.
- Hypobetalipoproteinemia, a genetic disease- cholesterol readings below 50 mg/dl
- Manganese deficiency
- Smith–Lemli–Opitz syndrome
- Marfan syndrome
- Leukemias and other hematological diseases
Risk factors of Low Cholesterol
Although there no clear diagnosis on health-related risk factors, but very low levels of LDL cholesterol may be associated with an increased risk of:
- Hemorrhagic stroke
- Low cholesterol during pregnancy can cause preterm birth and low birth weight
It is not yet certain if low cholesterol causes health problems or is it low cholesterol due to health problems. For example, people with depression may have low cholesterol levels, but it has not been proven that lowered cholesterol with statin therapy causes depression.
How to Lower your Cholesterol?
- Eat More Fiber- high fiber diets can reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. It may also help with weight loss, as being overweight is a high-risk factor for high cholesterol.
- Know Your Fats- Monitor your daily calorie intake. Limit your consumption of saturated fat and reduce eating trans fats, say up to 1% of your daily calories which comes from fried and junk foods.
- Limit red meat and eat more fish and lean poultry, drain fat from any meats before serving. Avoid processed meats, even those labeled “reduced-fat,” as they are still high in saturated fats and calories.
- Broil or bake, don’t fry foods.
- Oily fish such as salmon or trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces triglyceride levels and improves HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
- Soy proteins can also benefit in reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
- Low-carbohydrate diets help improve HDL cholesterol levels.
- Being overweight or obese increases your LDL cholesterol levels.
- Quit Smoking- Smoking is not only bad for your lungs; it also lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol and increases the risk for heart diseases.
- Exercise can increase your HDL (“good”) cholesterol and reduce your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Just 40 minutes of walking, swimming, or cycling three to four times a week will start showing results quickly.