Cholesterol is required by the body to work properly and generate new cells. This compound comes from two sources: one produced by the body and the other from the food we eat. The body produces enough cholesterol for body functions, so cholesterol overconsumption may be harmful for health by raising blood cholesterol.
Primarily, there are two types of cholesterol: LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). LDL is considered as “bad” and HDL as “good”. A diet high in bad cholesterol (LDL) and low in good cholesterol (HDL) may build up fat deposits in the arteries. This also causes them to harden, further limiting blood flow. This increases the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or any arterial disease. It is important to maintain a balance between both cholesterol levels to care for our cardiovascular health.
For the general population, it is advised to evaluate blood cholesterol every 2 to 4 years. However, it is recommended to do so once a year from the age of 20 if immediate relatives have a history of high blood cholesterol or you suffer from hypertension, diabetes or any other cardiovascular disease. Blood cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl.
Blood cholesterol levels could be high due to several reasons. It is most common for it to be inherited, but it might be due to an unhealthy lifestyle. This includes a low physical activity level, a sedentary lifestyle and an inadequate diet. A diet high in saturated fat or trans fat also enhances excessive cholesterol production in the liver. Only animal-derived products contain cholesterol; no plant-based food does. Food items with the highest cholesterol and/or saturated fat content a re:
- Viscera: liver, brains, kidneys and beef, pork, chicken and turkey giblets
- Meat cuts with high fat content: with visible fat around and between the meat fibers (marbled)
- Processed meats such as bacon, chorizo, sausages, chistorra, salami and pepperoni
- Egg yolk
- Seafood: squid, shrimps, crabs
- Full fat dairy products: whole milk, yellow and matured cheeses, ice cream
- Lard, butter, mayonnaise and cream
- Processed products: fried foods, bakery and sweet bread
In order to prevent high blood cholesterol, it’s necessary to:
- Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts
- Consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol per day, choosing non-fat dairy and limiting high cholesterol products
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Keep blood pressure under control
- Practice regular physical activity
- Avoid smoking
Through habits change you will prevent high cholesterol levels, which contributes to a healthy cardiovascular health.
American Heart Association. Cholesterol. Available from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/Cholesterol_UCM_001089_SubHomePage.jsp
Bonvecchio AV, Fernández-Gaxiola AC, Plazas M, Kaufer-Horwitz M, Pérez AB, Rivera JA.. Guías alimentarias y de actividad fìsica en contexto de sobrepeso y obesidad en la población mexicana. Documento de postura de la Academia Nacional de Medicina. 2015. Available from: http://anmm.org.mx/publicaciones/CAnivANM150/L29_ANM_Guias_alimentarias.pdf
Ministry of Health. Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-037-SSA2-2012. Para la prevención, tratamiento y control de las dislipidemias. 2012. Available from: http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5259329&fecha=13/07/2012