What is cholesterol?
Lipids are substances that are insoluble in water and hence do not dissolve in the blood. So, cholesterol is this lipid-like or fatty substance that runs throughout your body via the blood. Layers of the cell membranes are formed with the help of cholesterol; therefore, it is needed by every cell in the body. These membranes act as a filter for the products that enter or exit from the cell and protect the contents inside.
Cholesterol is made by the liver and simultaneously used by the liver to produce bile that helps indigestion. The liver is in control of making an adequate amount of cholesterol as per the body's needs. Vitamin D and certain hormones also need cholesterol for production. As long as there is a normal level of cholesterol in the body, there is no harm. But high cholesterol levels lead to hypercholesterolemia, and low levels cause hypocholesterolemia. It is rare to have too low cholesterol levels, but it is not impossible.
Various lipoproteins are responsible for the movement of cholesterol in the body.
- Two main lipoproteins, namely-
- LDL (Low-density lipoprotein), called "the bad cholesterol."
- HDL (High-density lipoprotein), called "the good cholesterol."
- VLDL (Very low-density lipoproteins). They carry triglycerides.
LDL is known as "bad cholesterol" because of its function. Arteries are blood vessels carrying oxygenated blood to all the other body organs from the heart. LDL causes fatty deposits on the walls of these arteries that make them narrower and prone to blockages. It is referred to as atherosclerosis. The fats that need to be low and are associated with LDL cholesterol are saturated and trans fats. Products like meat, milk, cheese etc., contain these fats, and they are usually solid wax-like at room temperature. Trans fats are found in fried and fast foods and prolong the shelf-life of some foods (cookies, bakery products). They are results of liquid fat being hydrogenated to become solid.
HDL being 'good cholesterol' is because it takes away other cholesterols like LDL from the arteries. HDL drops all the other cholesterols at the liver, which are then removed. So it is said that higher HDL reduces the risk of heart diseases.
Triglycerides, a different type of lipid, act as energy providers for the body. Unlike cholesterol, which builds up cells and hormones, they provide energy. Excess calories are stored in triglycerides in the fat cells, and lipoproteins circulate them via blood. Regular intake of excess triglycerides can increase your risk of getting diseases, especially heart disease.
Routine cholesterol screening is needed because, in many cases, high cholesterol levels are not realised at an early stage. Only when severe conditions like a heart attack or stroke are experienced these high levels are detected. Hence, high cholesterol is referred to as a "silent" issue. People 20 years old or more should ask their doctor about routine cholesterol checkup.
High cholesterol causes the deposition of cholesterol and other lipids on the artery walls, which can be dangerous. The plaque deposited can lead to reduced blood flow and cause conditions such as-
A stroke happens when blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked due to a blood clot. It is similar to a heart attack.
A blood clot can be formed if a tear or rupture in the plaques builds up on the artery walls. They can then cause blockage of blood flow or break free and plug an artery downstream. This will stop blood flow to the part of your heart resulting in a heart attack.
Coronary arteries are the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Blockage of these arteries might cause chest pain (angina), and the signs of other coronary artery diseases can be seen.
Cholesterol is attached to proteins and carried through the bloodstream. This combination of cholesterol and proteins is known as lipoproteins. As mentioned above, there are three types of lipoproteins, LDL, HDL and VLDL (triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood.
Some factors can be controlled but lead to high cholesterol levels and low HDL cholesterol, such as-
- Being inactive
- Unhealthy diet
Sometimes, genes might also cause insufficiency in cells to effectively remove LDL cholesterol from blood or even lead to the liver producing excess cholesterol. Other factors contributing to the increase in bad cholesterol are-
As your age increases, the liver becomes less and less capable of removing LDL cholesterol. It is because body chemistry changes as you age. So your risk of getting cholesterol also increases.
Higher blood sugar levels can result in dangerously high levels of very-low-density cholesterol (VLDL) and low HDL cholesterol levels. The lining of arteries is also damaged because of high sugar levels.
Exercise helps the body produce more HDL (good cholesterol) and increases the size of particles that make up LDL (bad cholesterol). The increase in size makes the LDL less harmful. Thus, exercise is essential.
The risk of high cholesterol increases if your BMI or body mass index is 30 or greater than 30.
Saturated fats and trans fat are harmful to the body. Saturated fats are usually found in animal-related products, and trans fats in bakery products like cookies, crackers and even microwavable popcorns. Consumption of both these fat-related products leads to high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol also results from the consumption of cholesterol-rich food like red meat and full-fat dairy products.
Levels of HDL or good cholesterol are lowered because of smoking. Blood vessel walls may also get damaged, causing them to accumulate more fat due to smoking.
A routine blood test will be enough for your doctor to diagnose the cholesterol levels of your body. The test is known as lipid panels. Using this test, assessing levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol is possible. This test is conducted by your physician or other diagnostics professionals by taking a blood sample and sending it to the lab for analysis. On getting the results, your triglyceride and cholesterol levels are mentioned in the report, helping your doctor diagnose. Before conducting this blood test, you may be asked to fast and not drink water a minimum of 12 hours before the test.
When talking about homoeopathic treatment for cholesterol, it is essential to mention that it mainly aims to lower cholesterol to the required level and prevent any disease related to the coronary artery. Usually, your doctor will prescribe a healthy diet to start with, followed by other treatment methods. As homoeopathy targets the underlying causes of the disease, it will do the same for cholesterol and increase the HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol.
When a person is healthy and fit, the liver will automatically lower the production of LDL because there is nothing to heal in the body. High blood cholesterol is a constitutional disease and requires similar treatment. If homoeopathic treatment is started in time, normal cholesterol levels can be achieved and maintained in future.
The conventional approach of medicine can become toxic due to the regular administration of drugs. Unlike this, homoeopathy has a holistic approach and the medications prescribed are natural, safe, and have no side effects. The medicines are also decided after considering personal medical history into account. The medicines will help increase HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, detoxify your body, and build your immunity levels. Your circulatory system becomes healthier, and the health of the cardiovascular system is also enhanced. You can take homoeopathic medicines despite being on medication for some other disease.