Live Right And Don't Forget to Have Some Oats
The New Straits Times
THE numbers are in: You have high cholesterol. Way above 5.2mmol/ L, in fact. This is not good news, especially when you know that high blood cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. Naturally, you now want to reduce your cholesterol. How can you do this?
THE GOOD & THE UGLY
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is needed by your body to perform functions like making cell walls, digesting food, producing hormones and Vitamin D. Your body makes its own cholesterol (endogenous cholesterol) while also getting some from the foods that you eat (dietary cholesterol).
Dietary cholesterol increases the amount of cholesterol in the blood. However, dietary fats, particularly saturated fats and trans fats, can raise blood cholesterol levels much more than the cholesterol you consume from food.
Saturated fats come from animal sources, e.g. lard, beef tallow and chicken fat. Trans fats can be found in processed foods containing fats that have been hardened through the addition of hydrogen (a process called hydrogenation).
Cholesterol "travels" through your blood stream in lipoproteins (e.g. low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, and high-density lipoproteins, or HDL).
LDL cholesterol is considered "bad" cholesterol because too much of it, when partially oxidised, causes atherosclerosis - a process where plaque builds up in a blood vessel, narrowing the space inside and restricting blood flow.
If blood flow to your heart is blocked, you will suffer a heart attack; if it's to your brain, you will suffer a stroke. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is "good" cholesterol. It removes cholesterol from the blood and delivers them back to the liver to be eliminated from the body.
So, how do people develop high blood cholesterol? Think of your liver as a factory. Its job is to process raw materials (dietary fats) into a useful product (cholesterol).
Let's say you - the owner of this factory - love eating high-fat foods. The more fats you bring into your "factory", the more cholesterol it will produce. The more cholesterol there is in the blood, the harder your liver has to work to eliminate it. This situation, if prolonged, can lead to a condition called hypercholesterolemia, which is high blood cholesterol. Unfortunately, some people can inherit this tendency to develop high blood cholesterol from their parents.
REDUCING THE CHOLESTEROL
Doctors recommend that you keep your total blood cholesterol (TC) below 5.2mmol/L. Keep the "bad" cholesterol (LDL-C) lower than 2.6 mmol/L and the "good" cholesterol (HDL-C) higher than 1.02 mmol/L for men or greater than 1.3 mmol/L for women.
It's generally harder to increase your HDL-C. Short of taking medications, the only other way to do it is by losing body weight and through regular exercise.
Fortunately, it's a lot easier to try to reduce your high LDL-C. The idea is to help your body eliminate as much excessive LDL-C as possible from the blood. Here's how:
* Eat heart-healthy oats
The soluble fibre in oats (called beta-glucan) has been clinically proven to help lower cholesterol in the blood. The liver "pulls" cholesterol from the blood to make bile, which is then stored in the gallbladder and secreted into the intestines in order to digest and absorb the fats that you eat.
When you eat oats, the soluble fibre it releases binds the bile in the intestines and both are subsequently excreted through the bowels. When bile is removed from the system in this way, your body will try to replace it. As a result, your liver "pulls" more cholesterol from the blood to make more bile. This action has the effect of lowering the amount of excessive cholesterol circulating in the blood.
If you have moderately high to very high cholesterol levels, you are at risk of heart disease. You should be receiving treatment and taking advantage of the benefits that oats can offer.
Two bowls of oats a day (approximately 70 grammes, which will deliver about 3 grams of beta-glucan) can make a world of difference in helping to lower high blood cholesterol levels. If you have borderline high cholesterol, making oats a part of your daily diet can help prevent your cholesterol problem from becoming worse and bring it back to healthy levels.
* Live right
Oats, cholesterol-lowering medications and even surgery won't be as effective if you don't commit yourself to living healthily. Eat a well-balanced diet. Limit cholesterol-rich foods, minimise foods containing saturated fats and try to avoid trans (hydrogenated) fats. Get in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every other day (if not every day) and take steps to lose any excessive body weight. Even a five to 10 per cent reduction can significantly reduce risk of heart disease. Smoking also raises cholesterol level and damages arteries.
Coupled with hearty servings of oats daily, all these will help reduce your blood cholesterol, which will in turn, reduce your risk of heart disease.