Cholesterol and Heart Disease: Is There a Link?
Cholesterol, a fatlike substance that travels around in your bloodstream, helps your body build new cells, produce hormones, and stimulate nerves. Generally, the liver produces all the cholesterol that the body needs; however, you also get it from the foods you consume, such as eggs, milk products, meat, and many others. And research says that high levels of cholesterol in the body can significantly increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
How does cholesterol increase the risk of heart diseases?
For decades, studies have shown that the key to staying heart healthy is to limit the intake of cholesterol. The reason? The reason is simple: when you consume cholesterol, it enters your bloodstream and starts building up in the walls of your arteries, leading to a process called atherosclerosis, which is a type of heart disease.
On the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, the arteries become narrowed over time, restricting the flow of blood to the heart, mind, and other parts of the body. When the blood — which carries oxygen — does not reach the heart or mind properly, the risk of a stroke or heart attack increases significantly. And if the blood supply to the heart stops completely as a result of narrowed or blocked arteries, you may suffer from a heart attack. Similarly, when the blood flow to the mind stops, the result is a stroke and eventually death.
Should you stop consuming cholesterol?
Now you may think of cholesterol as a major culprit for heart disease; however, there’s more to it. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is often called bad cholesterol because it is what blocks the arteries, or in other words, it is the major source of artery-blocking plaque. On the other hand, HDL is called good cholesterol because it helps clear cholesterol from the blood and takes it back to the liver for disposal.
Generally, high levels of HDL and low levels of LDL in the body lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. So, it’s not the cholesterol that you need to limit in your diet but LDL that clogs your arteries.
How much cholesterol is healthy to consume?
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, an average healthy person should consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. Now a major part of this daily cholesterol intake should include good cholesterol, whereas LDL intake should be as little as possible. This is because elevated LDL levels in the body can significantly put you at risk of developing heart disease.
While it’s true that you should curb your intake of cholesterol to stay heart-healthy, make sure not to completely avoid dietary cholesterol as it can worsen your health and prevent the body from performing many crucial functions. The key is to focus on consuming foods rich in HDL and avoiding those that include a high amount of LDL such as refined oil. If you need to replace your cooking oil with a healthy choice, you may want to consider LivLite ghee, which has 85% less cholesterol than normal ghee.