More vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and fish, and fewer industrialized foods, fast food, and sugars seem to be the key to lowering cholesterol.
Basing the daily diet on industrialized products, fast food and foods rich in sugars, contributes, among other risks, to raising the levels of “bad cholesterol” or LDL.
“If our daily diet is poor in natural products, minerals, vitamins and fiber, and high in ultra-processed foods and foods of animal origin, then a balance is generated in favor of cholesterol “, warns Gabriel Lapman, cardiologist, nephrologist and specialist in arterial hypertension, who emphasizes the linear relationship between poor diet and increased cholesterol.
According to the cardiologist, head of the outpatient clinics of the Sanatorio Modelo de Caseros, “the diet based on ultra-processed foods produces inflammation in the body, a situation that, added to other risk factors such as sedentary lifestyle, stress and high cholesterol, gradually builds up the disease cardiovascular”.
Soraya Battaiola Vitar, an endocrinologist and diabetologist at the Mautalén Center, agrees, who states that the pandemic complicated the situation of many patients who stopped going to check-ups, relaxed their eating habits and remained more sedentary. “Between 65 and 70% of the patients had a worsening of your lipid profiles and blood glucose during confinement “, he assures.
The measurements included in the lipid profile include total cholesterol, LDL or bad cholesterol, and HDL or good. “While there were people who have been creative in the kitchen, unfortunately during confinement won fast food by far, industrialized food and sedentary lifestyle, in a combo that threatens cardiovascular health “, he completes.
Now, why is it so important to know your cholesterol values? Cholesterol is a fatty substance that our body uses for different functions, such as being part of the cell structure or producing certain hormones.
“We all have cholesterol and without it we could not live. Although some cholesterol in our blood is essential for health, too much can be harmful”, explains Walter Masson, doctor of the Cardiology service of the Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires.
“The cholesterol that is in excess in our blood can accumulate inside the blood vessels or arteries. All arteries can get sick and depending on which of them becomes ill, the appearance of symptoms and clinical presentation will change. For example, if the arteries that become diseased are the coronary arteries, angina pectoris or a heart attack can occur. If the arteries that supply blood to our brain become blocked, a stroke can occur, “he says.
According to the doctor, it is important to note that there is no normal cholesterol value, but recommended figures for each group of patients. “Patients who have a higher risk of developing a cardiovascular problem should have a lower cholesterol level compared to patients who are at lower risk.”
High cholesterol is diagnosed with a blood test. In general, experts recommend taking the first measurement at age 20 and then every 5 years if the result is normal, that is, if the value obtained is below 200 mg / dl. If cholesterol is high, the professional will define the type of treatment and the frequency with which the controls should be done.
When high cholesterol occurs in several members of the same family, it is called familial hypercholesterolemia (HF). According to the Argentine Society of Cardiology, HF is caused by a genetic mutation that produces an increase in LDL cholesterol that is deposited from birth in the arteries, causing 20 times more risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease prematurely.
“He genetic cholesterol it begins to manifest itself between puberty and youth, “says Battaiola Vitar.” These patients may have cardiovascular symptoms when they are very young, and may present myocardial infarction before the age of 25, “she adds. According to the doctor, excess cholesterol in blood can manifest with the appearance of xanthomas or yellow spots in the eyelid area. “It is the skin that begins to warn that there is an increase in the deposit of fats, as a correlate of what happens in the blood,” explains the endocrinologist.
Alfredo Lozada, director of the Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis Council of the SAC says that HF has a huge burden of heart attack and stroke. “The good thing is that it is easy to diagnose and it is treated with generic drugs, so it is essential to detect it and treat patients early to avoid events, “he says.
The process by which cholesterol accumulates in the arterial walls is often “amplified” by the presence of other risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, stress or sedentary lifestyle.
“Arterial disease, called atherosclerosis, is multifactorial,” Masson explains. “High cholesterol is one of the modifiable risk factors. But when several risk factors act together, the process of arterial damage is accelerated. Therefore, the objective should be to reduce the overall cardiovascular risk, acting on all risk factors together“.
Regarding diet, to keep cholesterol at a healthy level, nutrition graduate Romina Pereiro recommends consuming natural foods, prioritizing fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, as well as whole grains rich in fiber such as oat bran, wheat bran and brown rice or yamaní. Also, lean meats, preferably skimmed dairy and at least 8 glasses of safe water per day.