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Beware of high cholestrol!

Are you: A man, over 35 years of age? Someone who doesn’t exercise regularly? Everyone talks about cholesterol these days, but what is it really? Mignonne Dsouza tells more...

health and fitness Updated: May 30, 2009 22:14 IST
Mignonne Dsouza

Are you: A man, over 35 years of age? Someone who doesn’t exercise regularly? Fond of fried food, junk food and a lot of meat? If you answered YES to any of the above, then it’s time you had your cholesterol checked.

Dr Bhaskar Shah, director of the department of cardiology at Jupiter Hospital in Thane, Mumbai, explains that cholesterol is “one of the types of fat in the body and a necessary substance for growth and normal functioning of your system”. He adds, “Seventy-five per cent of the cholesterol in your body is manufactured by the body through the liver. The rest is supplemented by diet.”

HDL or high density lipoprotein is referred to as good cholesterol. This removes blocks in your arteries and flushes out bad cholesterol. LDL (low density lipoprotein) is bad cholesterol that clogs the arteries and increases your risk of cardiac episodes and heart disease. The higher the levels of bad cholesterol in your body, the higher the incidence of blockages and heart attacks.

Check it out
Dr Anil Ballani, MD and consultant physician, Hinduja and Lilavati Hospitals, advises a complete lipid profile once a year. If you are obese or have hypertension or diabetes, get tested immediately. If you have a family history of heart disease or are a heavy smoker, start testing at 30. Otherwise, check your cholesterol levels from the age of 40. “This test helps identify your levels of HDL and LDL, and triglycerides (fat globules in the blood that clog the arteries, just like bad cholesterol). If your lipid profile is abnormal, adds Dr Ballani, get it checked every six months.

Work it out
How can you increase the good cholesterol in your body? “You need a minimum of 45 minutes of exercise daily, at least five days a week,” says Dr Ballani. Dr Shah advises walking a mile in 15 minutes. “Exercise not only increases your HDL levels, but also helps guard against other health problems,” he says.

Eat right
The next course of action involves your diet. “Eat a few walnuts and almonds every day,” says Dr Ballani. “They are said to increase the good cholesterol in the body.” Limit the amount of fried food, red meat, groundnuts and cashewnuts you consume, and avoid foods that contain transfats. Dr Shah says pistachios are also heart-friendly. He adds that you should cut your consumption of saturated fats (butter, cheese, ghee, cream, etc) and eat mono- and poly-saturated fats in reasonable quantities (three to four tsp a day).

Warning signs
“Small collections of hypo-pigmented patches below the eye (the medical term is Xanthelasma) are indicative of high cholesterol,” says Dr Ballani.

Hormones like estrogen ensure that women are protected to an extent against heart disease till menopause, says Dr Shah. “But after that,” he adds, “Their risk levels are even higher than those of men.”