Heart Disease and Cholesterol: How Cholestrol affects Your Heart

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like substance found in the blood and in all the cells of the body. Cholesterol helps your body to build new cells, insulate nerves, and produce hormones. Usually, the cholesterol made by liver meets the body requ

Updated: August 18, 2020

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like substance found in the blood and in all the cells of the body. Cholesterol helps your body to build new cells, insulate nerves, and produce hormones. Usually, the cholesterol made by the liver meets the body requirements. But cholesterol also enters your body from the food that you eat, such as milk, eggs, and meat. Too much cholesterol in your body is a risk factor for heart disease.


How Does High Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease?

The excess amount of cholesterol in your blood builds up in the walls of your arteries, causing atherosclerosis, a kind of heart disease. In atherosclerosis, the arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart muscle is slowed down or blocked. The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough blood and oxygen are not supplied to your heart, the heart finds it hard to pump. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, a heart attack occurs.

Types of Cholesterol:

We have 3 types of cholesterol in our bodies.

LDL (bad) cholesterol:

It is produced naturally by the body, but is also inherited from your parents or even grandparents, and can cause you to create too much.
 Eating a diet high in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol also increase the level in your blood. The excess amount of cholesterol present in the bloodstream, can clog your arteries and put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke, or even heart failure.

HDL (good) cholesterol:

High levels of this type of cholesterol remove excess plaque from your arteries, slowing its buildup and helping to protect against a heart attack. Low levels of HDL can actually increase your risk of heart disease.

Triglycerides:

This is a form of fat made in the body. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein, smoke, are obese or overweight or drink too much alcohol, it can raise total cholesterol levels, and lead to high LDL and low HDL levels.

There are many risk factors for heart disease. You can not have control over some of the factors, like family history or genetics. But diet and exercise are two risk factors you can control. Eliminating trans fats from your diet may have a bigger impact on your heart health.

Sources of Cholesterol in Your Diet:

Diet plays an important role in heart health and overall health.

Trans fats and saturated fats:

Trans fats raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol which is associated with increased risk of heart disease. Trans fats also have no nutritional value. 
Partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are the main source of trans fat in our diets. They are found in many types of processed foods.
Saturated fats are another source of LDL cholesterol and should be consumed in less amount. Foods containing saturated fats include:

  • palm and coconut oils
  • red meat, fatty meat, and highly-processed meat
  • fried foods
  • cocoa butter, butter, lard, shortening, and stick margarine
  • whole-fat dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese, and cream
  • sweets, pastries, donuts, cakes, and cookies
  • sugary beverages

Adding these foods which contain high-cholesterol, along with processed and fast foods in your diet, will lead to weight gain and obesity. Being overweight or obese raises your risk of heart disease, as well as other health complications.


Healthier options:

The below-listed foods may help lower LDL and raise HDL, and help manage your weight:

  • fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon
  • olive oil
  • citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, and grapes
  • nuts, including walnuts, peanuts, and almonds
  • beans and lentils including navy, kidney, garbanzo, and black-eyed peas
  • soybeans
  • okra and eggplant
  • oats and oat bran
  • barley and other whole grains


Healthy cooking tips to reduce cholesterol level:

  • use canola, sunflower, or safflower oil in place of butter, shortening, or lard
  • grill, broil or bake instead of frying
  • stir fry or shallow fry instead of deep fry
  • trim the fat off meats and remove the skin from poultry
  • use a rack to drain the fat off meat and poultry cooked in the oven
  • avoid basting with fat drippings


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