Cholesterol is an important waxy, fat-like substance found in blood plasma. It is also vital for bile production in the gallbladder, steroid hormones; it helps to break down fats for easy absorption and helps to absorb vitamins that are fat soluble - vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K.
Our body produces enough cholesterol and so whatever excess cholesterol we receive leads to thickening of the blood vessels and clots which cause cardiovascular problems like blocking the blood flow to heart, brain etc. This excess cholesterol is called hypercholesterolemia and is the most frequent cause of heart attacks, seizures or strokes.
Some other causes for excess cholesterol include smoking and drinking, heredity, overwork and mental stress, and obesity. Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease can also cause high cholesterol.
Few of the symptoms of hypercholesterolemia are feeling breathless, feeling heaviness and uneasiness in the chest area, always feeling tired, and pain in the chest region. Often, there are no symptoms; therefore regular medical checkups are essential to ensure cholesterol levels are within normal limits.
Cholesterols are lipids which are fats. High density lipoproteins and low density lipoproteins are the two components which should be checked along with total cholesterol and the triglycerides to see that we do not have risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A simple fasting blood test will let us know the values.
A right balance of the HDL and LDL will protect the blood vessels from thickening and clot formation, and help reduce the chances of any heart attack, stroke or seizures.
Once presence of high cholesterol is established, it is very important to control it. If diabetes is also present, it should be effectively controlled because erratic sugar levels lead to high cholesterol levels.
A wide-variety of prescription medications like statins is available today that control cholesterol very effectively.
That apart, life style changes along with dietary control help greatly in reducing high cholesterol. Regular exercises and walking are very effective in controlling it. Diet plays a very important role in controlling high cholesterol. There are quite a few dos and don'ts for effective diet control. Some of them are:
1. Avoid saturated fats - like fats from animal source - lard, butter etc. Also avoid coconut oil and palm oil.
2. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats which include canola, sunflower oil, safflower oil, olive oil etc are a better choice for cooking purposes.
3. It is better to stick to low-fat diet.
4. Take Omega 3 essential fatty acids as a supplement in tablet form; flax seeds are rich natural source and peanuts, almonds and walnuts are also beneficial to help lower serum cholesterol level.
5. Avoid red meat and fat-rich meat like pork, beef; it is advisable to consume more of lean meat like fish.
6. Eat a fibre-rich diet; include broccoli, lentils, green leafy vegetables, fruits and sprouts.
7. A vegetarian diet is helpful. There is no cholesterol found in food sources that are plant based unless it has been added during the food's preparation.
Some popular home remedies that can be tried to control excess cholesterol are:
1. Fenugreek seeds soaked overnight in water is widely taken as home remedy for high cholesterol.
2. Garlic boiled in a glass of milk is another useful natural remedy for high cholesterol.
3. Raw onion or raw onion juice is also used in lowering high cholesterol.
4. Cinnamon sticks soaked and boiled in a glass of water to which some honey is added is also beneficial.
5. One tablespoon of coriander seeds boiled in a glass of water, filtered and taken thrice daily.
6. Ginseng extracts or ginseng tea is also used as a useful home remedy for high cholesterol.
There are a number of Indian herbs in the herbalist shop, and Ayurvedic medicines available that can be of possible help.