Avoid Heart Diseases, Lower Your Cholesterol

What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol helps your body build new cells, insulate nerves, and produce hormones. Normally, the liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs. But cholesterol also enters your body from food, such as animal-based foods like milk, eggs, and meat. Too much cholesterol in your body is a risk factor for heart disease.

How Does High Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease?
When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries, causing a process called atherosclerosis, a form of heart disease. The arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart muscle is slowed down or blocked. The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.
What Are the Symptoms of High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol itself does not cause any symptoms, so many people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high. Therefore, it is important to find out what your cholesterol numbers are. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens the risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of a heart attack or dying of heart disease, even if you already have it.

What Affects Cholesterol Levels?
A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:

Diet:
Saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and trans fats and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Increasing the amount of fiber and plant-derived sterols can also help lower LDL cholesterol.

Weight:
In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL, total cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels, as well as raise your HDL.

Exercise:
Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes every day.

Age and Gender:
As we get older, cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, women's LDL levels tend to rise.

Heredity:
Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

Medical conditions
Occasionally, a medical condition may cause an elevation of cholesterol levels in the blood. These include hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), liver disease and kidney disease.

Medications.
Some medicines, like steroids and progestins, may increase "bad" cholesterol and decrease the "good" cholesterol.

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