Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found all around the cells of our body. Having too much cholesterol in our blood can be very dangerous as it may combine with our substances in our blood to form plaque. Plaque sticks to the wall of our arteries and as it builds up over time, it can lead to arterial hardening, narrowing or blockage.
This would in turn cause heart diseases such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and or stroke.
That being said, not all cholesterol is considered bad. While the ‘word’ cholesterol tends to have a bad perception, in actuality, cholesterol is also essential for our bodies to function normally as they are involved in hormone, vitamin D and enzyme production.
There are three main types of Cholesterol found in our blood – HDL, LDL & Triglycerides.
- HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein, it is often referred to as “good” cholesterol as it is able to carry cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver – allowing your liver to then remove the cholesterol from your body.
- LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, it is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol as this is the primary type of cholesterol that can lead to plaque formation in your arteries.
- Triglycerides are also considered to be a ‘bad’ cholesterol as it too contributes to increased risk of plaque buildup in your arteries.
What causes high cholesterol?
The most common cause of high cholesterol is an unhealthy lifestyle coupled with an unhealthy diet. An inactive and sedentary lifestyle may reduce HDL levels while an unhealthy diet rich in saturated fats will lead to increased levels of LDL & Triglyceride levels.
Unhealthy habits such as smoking as well can lead to increased risk of heart diseases as the harmful chemicals and toxins found in cigarette smoke can lower HDL levels while increase LDL levels.
Maintaining Healthy Cholesterol levels
With our cholesterol introductions out of the way, it is apparent that we need to maintain healthy cholesterol levels in order to maintain good heart health and circulation.
For an average adult, the cholesterol level readings should ideally be:
- Total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL
- LDL below 130 mg/dL
- HDL above 60 mg/dL
Lowering LDL & triglyceride levels are pretty straight forward as it involves adopting a healthy low saturated fat diet and plenty of exercise. Exercises that get your heart pumping like jogging or running are especially ideal for heart health. It is recommended that we get at least 150 minutes of exercise every week, or 30 minutes 5 days a week.
However, for those already suffering from high or borderline high cholesterol levels, proper supplementation of super foods and teas can greatly help reduce overall cholesterol levels.
Superfoods such as wild garlic, yarrow leaf, rooibos tea, hawthorn berries, roselle and artichoke leaves have all been found to have some effect in reducing overall cholesterol levels.
While these superfoods and teas are helpful in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, it should be noted that they are not replacements for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Instead a healthy balance of the two should be practiced for optimal results.