If there’s one thing that can seriously affect your heart and substantially increase the risk of heart attacks, it is cholesterol. It is a major risk factor leading to blocked arteries and one of the primary causes of heart attack, making it one of the most important health indicators you should watch out for. So, before we seek to manage cholesterol levels, we need to understand its function and use.
What is cholesterol and what is its function?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by the liver and is found in all the cells of your body. It is also found in foods that come from animal sources like meat, egg yolk, cheese, etc. Cholesterol is important for the body because it helps the body produce hormones, Vitamin D, and digestive enzymes that help you process nutrients.
How does cholesterol affect the heart?
Cholesterol mixes with blood and produces plaque that may stick to the arteries blocking the smooth flow of blood from your heart to your body. Most coronary diseases are caused due to blocked arteries and they are directly responsible for the majority of heart attacks. Cholesterol, as a lipoprotein, a mixture of proteins and lipids (fats), flows to and from the liver throughout the body.
What are the different types of cholesterol?
There are three basic kinds of lipoproteins or cholesterols that affect your health.
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – HDL is also called the ‘good’ cholesterol as it takes excess cholesterol from all parts of your body back to the liver which removes it from your body.
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) – LDL is called the ‘bad’ cholesterol as it usually reacts with substances in your blood and forms plaque easily, clogging your arteries.
- Very Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) – VLDL is also ‘bad’ cholesterol but is less harmful than LDL.
So, in order to lead a healthy life, you need to ensure that the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol is proportionately less than compared to the ‘good’ cholesterol in your body so that your arteries remain free and healthy. A simple 3-step approach can actually help you control cholesterol levels in your body in a week. Let’s take a look.
Step 1: Manage your diet
Managing your diet is the first step towards managing cholesterol levels in your body.
- Reduce – Reduce the intake of saturated fats found in red meat and full-fat dairy products like whole milk yogurt and cheese. Reduce the consumption of food items with trans fat or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. You can identify these items by checking the label while buying food at the store. If the food item (cookies, cakes, chips, etc.) contains trans fat, move away from them.
- Increase – Increase the intake of food items with Omega-3 fatty acids (found in seafood), soluble fiber (oatmeal, kidney beans, sprouts, etc.) and whey protein that reduces both cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Step 2: Exercise
To manage your cholesterol levels, on the short-term, you need not become a gym-member. Even small but regular workouts are effective in controlling cholesterol levels. A 20-minute vigorous activity three times a week, or 30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week can be a good start for you. Playing some sport, riding a bicycle, or going for a jog could help you reduce cholesterol levels in your body, beginning immediately.
Step 3: Change your lifestyle
Your lifestyle is the biggest contributor to your cholesterol levels as it defines what you eat, drink, smoke, and your weight. If you are a smoker, kick the habit immediately. Within a year of quitting cigarettes, the risk of heart disease reduces by 50%. If you like drinking, cut that down to a maximum of one drink a day, but making it once a week would be even more advisable. And most importantly, monitor your weight as your first priority. Studies have revealed that reduction in weights, even in small amounts, lowers cholesterol levels considerably.
These small but significant steps could have great benefits for your health and, in fact, you would be able to see positive changes in your life within a week but there’s one more essential step that you need to take if you wish to secure your future health needs.
Step 4: Insure yourself for the future
High cholesterol levels lead to critical health issues including coronary diseases and chronic ones that can affect both your physical as well as financial health. While you may work hard to stay healthy and manage your lifestyle well, it is highly important that you secure your future against sudden events that cannot be predicted. Strokes, cardiac arrest, etc. are some illnesses that you cannot foretell but you can always prepare for them.
Critical health insurance plans, for example, are a great way of securing yourself against such illnesses. If your family has a history of illnesses like heart problems, cancer, diabetes, etc. it is advisable for you to consider purchasing a plan that covers the expenses if, in the worst case, you fall victim to such an illness. These plans are designed to cover your medical expenses and they pay out in lump sum so you can have the insured sum in your hand when you need them.
Similarly, various health insurers have custom-made insurance plans to specifically tackle illnesses like heart problems, diabetes, cancer, etc. that can be chronic in nature. Having a strong insurance plan would help you remain financially secure in difficult times and can help you and your family fight the illness with strength.
In conclusion, the steps to having a secure and a healthy future would demand that first and foremost you get your cholesterol levels checked and consult a physician. You should then modify your diet, exercise, and lifestyle to lead a healthier life. And most importantly, secure yourself with a long-term and suitable insurance for your peace of mind and an uncertain future.
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