Most of the time, on a visit to a health clinic, we keep hearing doctor's advice to have healthy eating habits and a regular physical activity. Though, we must have got bored hearing this same old suggestion again and again but actually these lifestyle changes are exactly what is required for us to keep away from many major diseases. It is also quite common that whenever we visit the Physician for our routinely check up or any kind of ailments, we are suggested for different tests including blood cholesterol levels. Starting from our living room with newspapers and TV set to hoardings on the road side and shopping malls, we see lot of commercials of different cooking oils, food items which ensure to lower our cholesterol levels and help to maintain a healthy heart. Much has been written and talked about to create health awareness in public about good and bad cholesterol. This is because most of the countries across globe have been facing the problem of rise of mortality cases due to heart diseases and stroke. Studies have proved that such incidence affecting both young and aged are increasing due to many risk factors including high cholesterol levels because of sedentary life style and irregular unhealthy eating habits.

Naturally, cholesterol is found in blood which is required for our body. This is produced by the liver and is essential in producing steroid hormones like estrogen and progesterone in case of females and testosterone in case of males which is necessary for developments of physical traits and reproduction. Besides this, cholesterol helps in producing vitamin D to strengthen bones and teeth and bile to digest dietary fats. Bile inturn helps our body to absorb vitamins from dietary sources of food that we eat. Therefore, cholesterol is an essential substance required for growth and functioning of our body. Normally, our body has the capacity to produce the amount of cholesterol required for the body. So, there is a natural balance in our body to maintain the blood cholesterol level and produce the amount which is actually necessary for functioning. Troubles arise when the balance is disturbed and the blood cholesterol level in our body started increasing. This happens when we start taking too much of fatty meals, animal products, heavy alcohol and lack of physical activity. Excess dietary cholesterol causes the blood cholesterol level to increase rapidly and the excess amount get deposited on arterial walls (atherosclerosis) leading to risk factors for high blood pressure, heart diseases, peripheral vascular disease and stroke. Blood cholesterol happens to be of two types. "Bad" Cholesterol or low density lipoprotein (LDL) which increases the risk of heart disease and "Good" Cholesterol or high density lipoproteins(HDL) which gives protection against heart disease. It is quite unfortunate to know that only about one forth of total blood cholesterol is "Good" and the rest is "Bad". Therefore, a high blood cholesterol level is quite alarming as most of the cholesterol present in blood is bad cholesterol or LDL which would go and form arterial plaques and increases our risk for heart disease and other health problems. Like cholesterol, another type of fat called triglycerides is also stored in our body which is required for energy production. Higher level of triglyceride is also a risk factor for heart disease. So, it would be wise on our part to go for a routine check up and does blood cholesterol and triglyceride tests once or twice annually to keep a check on the levels.

We need to find out ways to raise our good (HDL) cholesterol level and hence we should be aware and completely avoid those food items which are rich in saturated and trans fats. Saturated and trans fat intake causes rapid rise of bad cholesterol or LDL level and triglycerides. Such food items are fatty oily meals, fatty dairy products, deep fried food, confection products and food rich in animal fats. Therefore, these items should be normally avoided. Though we have many options to choose, but what is best for us is to opt for food items and oils rich in polysaturated and mono saturated fatty acids which can actually help us to lower LDL levels and ensure healthy living. Fats in the form of polysaturated and mono saturated fatty acids are food items which include cooking oils like olive, sunflower, canola or soya bean and food items like eggs, fishes, lean meat, nuts. Studies have proved that consuming food rich in plant extracts and high in fibre can reduce the bad cholesterol levels. LDL reducing foods are mainly fruits, legumes namely lentils, soy beans, chickpeas and cereals like oats, barley. Some food like egg yolk, fishes and chicken do contain cholesterol but they are low in saturated fats so they can be included in our healthy diet. Not only eating habits, but there are also certain lifestyle changes which becomes utmost necessary for us to keep a check on our cholesterol levels. Maintaining a healthy weight, doing regular exercise, avoiding alcohol and smoking are some of the extremely important steps in our day to day life.

Uncontrolled levels of cholesterol can be dangerous and can even lead to serious consequence like death. Medical literature has proved time and again that untreated high levels of cholesterol are a commonest risk factor for heart disease and stroke which can lead to serious event like death. Except in some genetic cases, there is enough evidence among population to show that unhealthy eating, poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise are the dominant causes of rise of cholesterol levels. Therefore, it is wise enough for us to know the cholesterol basics and move towards the goal to effectively control our cholesterol levels and stay fit and healthy.

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A Medical Professional , enthuiastic in writing articles on health related topics.