Learning to beat the cholesterol bug

August 2000​

In excess, cholesterol can coagulate on the walls of the arteries which supply blood to the heart, forming plaque. Gradually plaque accumulates and eventually blocks the arteries and deprives your body of the oxygen and nutrients required to remain healthy

EVERYONE HAS HEARD OF CHOLESTEROL. But how much do we really know about it? And from the little that we know, how much is clearly understood? Taking this in perspective with other unrelated known factors and unknown links, a broader picture needs to be drawn if a code of conduct is to be recommended to lay citizens and heart patients in particular to beat the cholesterol bug.

Blood cholesterol actually originates from two different sources. Only about one-third comes from a person’s diet. The remaining two-thirds is manufactured by the body. Cholesterol is a biochemical substance which is naturally produced in the liver. It’s essential to the normal functioning of cells, as well as for the production of certain hormones, digestive juices, Vitamin D and who knows what else yet to be discovered by man. Your body naturally produces all the cholesterol it needs. It does not require any cholesterol from your food intake.

Therefore the problem begins when we eat foods which contain too much cholesterol and saturated fats — primarily high-fat meat and dairy products. The body’s response to saturated fats is to manufacture more cholesterol. And when our bodies make too much cholesterol, susceptibility to heart diseases increases. The problem is compounded when stress and pessimism simultaneously become a part of life.

Much of the cholesterol in our bodies travels through the bloodstream. In excess, it can coagulate on the walls of the arteries which supply blood to the heart, forming plaque. Gradually plaque accumulates and can eventually block the arteries and deprive your body of the oxygen and nutrients required to remain healthy.

OVER TIME, ARTERIES CAN CLOG SEVERELY, restricting the flow of blood to the heart and/or the brain. When the supply of blood to the heart is restricted the result is angina, which causes severe pain upon stress or physical exertion. It could also result in a heart attack, because so little blood gets to the heart that the muscle tissues actually die and when clogged arteries send too little blood to the brain, a paralytic stroke is a likely possibility.

The cholesterol bug works silently. There may be no warning or outward symptom besides fatigue and lack of energy.  Sometimes a fatal heart attack is the first sign. So being aware and taking good care of your body generally is advisable. Don’t wait for a signal. Live healthily, both physi-cally and mentally, so that you are proof against illness of any kind.

But this is easier said than done. With more and more exotic foods available in the marketplace you have to be very determined to resist the demands of your taste buds. But once your body begins to experience higher energy levels then a lifestyle change will not be difficult. 

The good news is that not all the cholesterol in your bloodstream is bad. The high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) actually protects against heart diseases because it carries cholesterol away from the arteries back to the liver, where it can be prepared for excretion. Essentially one has to avoid the accumulation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol which can build up and clog the inner linings of the arteries feeding the heart and brain.

BASICALLY WHAT ONE HAS TO AVOID totally or eat in small quantities are all types of meats, eggs and dairy products.  Please remember that many processed foods like sauces, creams, cakes, mayonnaise contain dairy and other unnecessary ingredients. Always read the labels. Saturated fats should be avoided completely. Most of our refined oils are heavy with saturated fat, some more and some less.  Switch to ghani i.e. cold-pressed or double-filtered olive, safflower, sesame or sunflower oils. This is even more important than ingesting meat, because meat is still a food (if it’s not stuffed with hormones) while the processing of the oil makes it harmful. Even ghee is preferable.

On the other hand eating vegetables, fruits, cereals or pulses can never create a cholesterol problem. Fresh coconut is fine too. However when refined into oil it becomes  harmful. Refined and processed foods of all kinds including white bread and white rice may not contribute to your cholesterol build up but will imbalance your body and lower its immunity which in turn will make you susceptible to whatever you are predisposed.

Of course we all know people who eat, drink, smoke and make merry. They never seem to become sick and live to ripe old ages. This miracle can be attributed to their state of mind. If you can remain unstressed in contemporary urban life and can cope with pressures without taking them to bed with you, then yes, you could probably indulge in all that’s taboo healthwise and get away with it. But generally speaking it is advisable to take care of the body so as to be able to cope with stress and fear. Prayer, meditation, belief in the divine all help to maintain a balance and save you from stress.

Physical activity is also one of the best ways to raise your protective HDL level. So stop being a couch potato and walk that extra mile. Learn to use your mind productively so that you remain mentally active as well. And although food constitutes a small part of your life make sure you are nutrient rich so that when confronted with a stressful crisis your body has all the resources to fight back and survive.

Kavita Mukhi

Kavita Mukhi

She is the mentor of The Farmers’ Store and the founder of The Bandra Farmers Market. She is a pioneer, evangelist and an over all inspiration and motivating force of our business. She is actively involved in steering the company up the organic path and also is the qualitative think tank and procurement authority behind all the products sold at The Farmers’ Store. Learn more about her on the About Us Page!

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