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Control your cholesterol level

health-and-fitness Updated: Jun 19, 2012 16:44 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Hindustan Times
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A lot has been written and communicated about the adverse affects of being overweight. People are now increasingly aware of the health issues that obesity presents. Not only does carrying additional kilos make us feel lethargic and uneasy, but it can also result in loads of other serious problems. High cholesterol is one such condition. But its excess alone does not exhibit any symptoms.

The proportion of cholesterol in your body is directly linked to your well-being. The chances of getting serious health problems or heart diseases are very prominent among the list of other illnesses that high cholesterol levels can cause.

Low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) clogs the arteries and impedes the blood flow to the heart. Therefore, it is advisable to get a cholesterol test done once in a while, so you have a clear knowledge of the levels of bad and good cholesterol in your body. Cholesterol is not bad Cholesterol is an accumulation of blood fats that the body gathers from junk food and oil.

The fats, however, are waxy in nature and are produced by the liver as they are required for the building and development of our cells. The human body needs cholesterol to maintain proper cell structure and is essential for normal brain and nerve function. It is also needed for the manufacturing of sex hormones. However, too much of it can lead to serious complications.

Losing a few kilos will improve your health Unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise can result in the increase of cholesterol levels. Eating foods that are high on saturated fats also leads to weight gain.

If you are overweight and have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, here are a few tips you can follow to control your condition: n Make sure you work out and reduce your weight. Exercising helps improve blood pressure and the levels of triglyceride and cholesterol in the body. It also improves blood flow and decreases inflammation in the body.

Keep a check on your fat intake

Make sure you are eating the right types of fats. Foods like meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, cream, cheese and many processed and takeaway foods increase blood cholesterol. The key nutrient which helps keep cholesterol under check is fibre. Foods like wheat bran, oats, barley, beans, vegetables and fruits are good reduction agents. Soluble fibre prevents absorption of cholesterol by the body.

Eating apples, carrots, whole pulses and garlic also helps. So make them part of your daily diet. Since these items are also low on calories and rich in soluble fibre, they will also enable weight loss. n Include foods containing omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These help regulate blood pressure and reduce blood clots. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, flaxseed and canola oil are some of the food items rich in omega-3fatty acids. n Walnuts, almonds and pistachios are rich in mono unsaturated fatty acids, which also help keep blood vessels healthy.

But nuts are high on calories, so consume only a handful at a time. n Avoid cooking at high temperatures. Doing so creates trans-fats that raise cholesterol levels. Also, avoid reusing oil that has already been used for frying. Trans-fats are harmful to our body as they increase the tendency for clot formation and inflammatory conditions, besides being responsible for most health problems ranging from low immunity to cancer. n Avoid eating deep fried foods and biscuits made from white flour (maida). n Increase the intake of folic acid. Eat leafy vegetables, lentils and whole pulses, as folic acid helps reduce homocysteine levels. High levels of homocysteine increase risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Eat half an onion as part of your salad with every meal. This will help keep the blood thin. n The ‘garam masala’ (spices) used in Indian cooking discourages blood platelet clumping. Cloves and cumin seed powder promote anti-clotting activity in the body. n To reduce your cholesterol level, mix two teaspoons of ginger juice with one teaspoon of garlic juice, two grams of turmeric powder and one teaspoon of honey. Consume this once a day for three to six months. People with elevated triglyceride levels are advised to avoid alcohol.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre