Oman health: Cholesterol, the good, bad, and the ugly
April 15, 2017 | 8:26 PM
by Dr Matlooba Ayoub Al Zadjali
Diet and exercise are the first approach used to reduce cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is an oil-based substance. It’s a type of lipid molecule and does not mix with blood, which is water-based and is carried around the body by proteins, which are called lipoprotein as it is a combination of (cholesterol and protein).

There are two types of lipoprotein: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol and it carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) - is known as ‘good’ cholesterol and it carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver to be broken down.

Cholesterol is considered important because of its functions in our body. It contributes to the structure of cell walls, help in digesting bile acids in the intestine, play an important role for vitamin D production as well as helps the body to make certain hormones.

However, evidences from studies indicate that bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood can cause fatty material to build up in the artery walls. Therefore it considered harmful and the risk is particularly high if a high level of bad cholesterol and a low level of good cholesterol is identified in the blood.

The lower the level of cholesterol and LDL in the body the better it is. An individual should aim to have a total cholesterol level under 4mmol/l especially if a person is at a risk of heart and circulatory disease.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are another type of fat that are found in the blood and the body uses them for energy. High triglyceride level increases the risk of heart disease. It is as bad as LDL cholesterol.

It is also considered to be sign of metabolic syndrome. For example if a person is overweight mainly at the tummy area and eat a lot of fatty and sugary foods, they are more likely to have a high triglyceride level. Triglyceride can be found in foods such as dairy products, meat, and cooking oils.

Causes of high cholesterol

Studies show that limiting intake of fat in the diet helps manage cholesterol levels. There is no one single cause for high cholesterol. There are many factors that contribute in high cholesterol level such as; eating a diet that is high in saturated fat, smoking, being overweight, lack of physical activity, and high alcohol intake. Accordingly, it is very important to limit foods that contain cholesterol (from animal foods, meat, and cheese), saturated fat and Trans fats that are found in (meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods).

Furthermore, familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) an inherited disease can also cause exceptionally high cholesterol mainly LDL levels even if a person has a healthy lifestyle. There are additional factors or conditions that play an important role on abnormal cholesterol levels, for instances; diabetes, liver or kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, underactive thyroid gland, drugs that increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol more-specifically (progestin, anabolic steroids, and corticosteroids).

Prevention and management of high cholesterol level

In order to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack, changes in lifestyle are highly recommended.

Healthy balanced diet

Eating lots of fruit, vegetables, and wholegrain is better than eating foods high in saturated or Tran’s fats. Replace saturated fats with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils, and spreads. Increase the intake of high in soluble fibre that can help lower cholesterol level such as oats, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Regular exercise

Staying active is great way to keep the heart healthy therefore, regular physical activity can help increase HDL cholesterol.

Quit smoking

It can help to lower cholesterol and improve heart health.

Medication, lipid-lowering therapy

In general, diet and exercise are the first approach used to reduce cholesterol levels. The need of taking cholesterol-lowering medicine depends on individuals’ cholesterol level and overall risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Cholesterol-lowering medicines such as statins are prescribed for people who are at greatest overall risk of cardiovascular disease. It is important the person contact his doctor for more advices regarding the medications.

Dr Matlooba Ayoub Al Zadjali is cardiologist and Public Health Physician MD, MPH, Dip Cardiology, PhD

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know all the latest news