The pitfalls of cholesterol


“High cholesterol” should not be an aesthetic concern but a health concern. The accumulation of cholesterol in our body is also caused by an incorrect lifestyle. To avoid developing heart disease, prevention is the best cure.

Cholesterol is a molecule that belongs to the lipid (fat) family. It plays an important role in the formation of the membranes of all the cells of the body, it participates in the synthesis of some hormones (including sexual and stress), vitamin D and bile (digestion). All these functions make cholesterol an essential molecule for the proper functioning of our body. Unlike common thinking, the cholesterol present in the body is only minimally obtained from the diet, while most is produced directly by our body, specifically by the liver.

Once produced, the cholesterol must be transported, through the blood, to the sites where it is able to perform its functions. Because of its inability to “mix” with water (it is a fat-like oil), cholesterol cannot circulate freely in the blood but needs to be linked to specific transporters called “lipoproteins”. In the body there are various types of lipoproteins that differ from one another based on size and density.

From the point of view of cardiovascular risk, the most important lipoproteins are LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins), also known as “bad” cholesterol, whose function is to transport cholesterol from the liver to other cells. A different type of lipoproteins, the HDL (High Density Lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol, collects cholesterol from the periphery and brings it back to the liver, adrenal glands, ovaries and testicles, where it will be eliminated or transformed, thus functioning as “scavengers” of cholesterol.

Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood are a serious threat to our heart, as its excess tends to oxidize, triggering an inflammatory process that leads to the accumulation of cholesterol on the walls of our arteries. This process is called atherosclerosis and the plaques that are created (atherosclerotic plaques) can lead to the obstruction of the vessels involved over the years, thus causing, depending on the area affected, myocardial heart attack (at the level of the heart), stroke (in the brain) or intermittent claudication (in the lower limbs).

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the world. Except for hereditary cases (individuals genetically predisposed to high blood levels of LDL cholesterol), these pathologies are often caused by us (unhealthy diet, cigarette smoking, poor physical activity, hypertension). To prevent these diseases, we must first eliminate the risk factors depending on our lifestyle.

Proper nutrition and, if necessary, integration can certainly help. It is advisable to follow a diet low in dry pastries, butter, lard, lard, red meat, cheeses, in general low in animal fats, with the exception of Omega-3 (abundant in fish), useful for maintaining normal levels of triglycerides in the blood and normal blood pressure and which contribute to normal heart function. Omega-3s are fatty acids called “essential” because our body is unable to produce them. It is therefore necessary to take them from the diet or with a good supplement, being careful that the latter present the quality certification and the absence of contamination from heavy metals, now present in the fish of our seas.

The dangerous oxidation of cholesterol can be avoided or limited through a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, excellent sources of vitamins and antioxidant molecules. Their action can be increased through minerals, vitamins and organic substances that contribute to the protection of cells from oxidative stress, such as manganese, olive oil polyphenols, copper, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C, the vitamin E and zinc.

After a period of “leisure”, in which we happen eat badly, drink more alcohol than usual or not do enough physical activity, it is good to purify the liver, the organ responsible for the production but also for the elimination of cholesterol in excess through the bile. 

If prevention has not been effective, people with high levels of cholesterol often resort to the use of remedies such as statins (first choice drug for the control of cholesterol) or, as complements, natural remedies.

In conclusion, “high cholesterol” should not be an aesthetic concern but a health concern. To avoid developing heart disease, as we often write, prevention is the best cure. The accumulation of cholesterol in our body is also caused by an incorrect lifestyle. We should try to take better care of our body by letting ourselves be assisted, if needed, by nature.