More than 80 percent. Elevated cholesterol levels are detected in people who decide to test their blood, according to the results of the cardiovascular disease prevention program implemented in Lithuania. Not only due to genetics, but also often due to malnutrition or constant stress, elevated cholesterol signals metabolic disorders. The latter two aspects are especially relevant during quarantine, so pharmacists recommend paying more attention to what we eat and how we feel about spending time at home.
“Right now, we are all feeling the constant tension over the threat of coronavirus and imprisonment between the four borders, the fear of losing my job. In addition, the refrigerator is opened more often, and not necessarily only the most healthy products. Stress, food high in sugar or animal fat, overweight and lack of physical activity are the factors that can cause an increase in cholesterol, ”says Kęstutis Beržinis, a pharmacist at Gintarinės vaistinė, who was recognized as the winner of the silver medal in the Lithuanian Pharmacist of the Year 2019 election.
The pharmacist says that when the cholesterol level rises, the body usually starts sending signs, all you need to do is notice and react to them in time. Yellowish-brown nodules formed in the palms of the hands, around the knees, elbows or eyelids are signs of an increase in cholesterol. A gray ring may also form on the periphery of the cornea of the eye.
“Usually, people with high blood cholesterol complain in the spring or when they return from vacation, when they allow themselves to eat more sweet, fatty or fast food, as well as when they exercise less. Overweight caused by malnutrition can cause an excess of insulin, which creates an inflammatory background and chronic inflammation, and the body tries to fight it by producing more cholesterol, ”K. Beržinis assures.
Although elevated cholesterol is most often associated with being overweight, there are exceptions to this rule as well. The pharmacist mentioned a case where two elderly women came to the pharmacy to take measurements of total cholesterol a few years ago.
“One of them was extremely thin, the other was overweight and even short of breath. The first was outraged, and the second was waiting with a smile. And it was the latter's cholesterol levels that were good, and those of a woman who obviously puts too much stress into life – higher. This example only confirms that there are many reasons for excess cholesterol, and the assessment of this indicator can not be unambiguous, ”explains the specialist.
“Bad” and “good” cholesterol
K. Beržinis explains that cholesterol is a vital substance for a person and is divided into “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL). “These names are conditional because man needs both species. Problems start when the body develops an imbalance in them – we have a lot of “bad” and low “good” cholesterol. The higher the level of “good” cholesterol in the blood, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, “says the pharmacist.
According to him, it is especially important not only to perform tests for total cholesterol on a regular basis, but also to determine the levels of “bad” and “good” cholesterol in the blood, and to try to detect and correct deviations from the norm as soon as possible.
The rate of total cholesterol is 5 millimoles per liter (mmol / l) and the rate of 'bad' is 3 mmol / l. The recommended “good” blood cholesterol level should not be less than 1 mmol / l.
Cholesterol lowering – fiber
For residents who have been diagnosed with an increase in “bad” cholesterol, the pharmacist recommends changing their eating habits, losing weight, and giving up intolerable foods. “Moderate consumption of fast carbohydrates, reduction of saturated fats and abandonment of hydrogenated fats together with regular physical activity would cause a positive” revolution “in the body. The diet should include products high in omega-3 fatty acids and high in fiber: mackerel, salmon, cod liver, nuts, avocados, flaxseed, hemp. It is also recommended to eat brightly colored vegetables and fruits, the polyphenols of which help to fight inflammation, ”says K. Beržinis.
He points out that it is worth giving up oil, which contains omega-6 fatty acids, as this promotes inflammatory processes in the body. Also, do not overeat eggs or meat from young animals, as these products are simply saturated with cholesterol.
Recently, pharmacists say they have noticed an increase in sales of cholesterol-lowering drugs, but they advise them to resort only when the health threat becomes real and may initially be enough to adjust their lifestyle.