Regular monitoring and lifestyle changes can help to manage cholesterol levels effectively
The 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey revealed that 47.7% of Malaysians above 18 years old suffer from high cholesterol levels. This significant increase (from 32.6% in 2011) is quite alarming and further statistics from the report revealed that 38.6% of these adults did not even know that their cholesterol levels were above acceptable levels. This is further compounded by the fact that 94.0% of Malaysian adults did not consume the adequate portion of fruits and/or vegetables as recommended by WHO (5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables daily).
One of the key factors to managing heart health is to understand what cholesterol is and how it works in the body. “Cholesterol is a type of fat that cannot dissolve in our blood. It is transported through our bloodstream by carriers called lipoproteins (lipids and proteins ,” said Cher Siew Wei, Corporate Wellness Manager, Nestlé Malaysia.
“Cholesterol has many important functions in the body, including being part of the cell walls, producing bile acids and hormones and making Vitamin D in your skin,” she added. “Cholesterol can be found mostly in shellfish, prawns, red meat and egg yolk.”
There are two types of lipoproteins: Low density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol and high density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good’ cholesterol. High level of LDL will contribute to blocked arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. On the other hand, HDL helps protect arteries from a build-up of fatty deposits such as plaque, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. It is important to note that the cholesterol consumed from food only has a small effect on bad cholesterol. Saturated and trans fats cause a much greater increase in bad cholesterol.
If high cholesterol levels are not managed, this can result in the build-up of cholesterol plaques that can harden the walls of arteries and block blood flow. Should a cholesterol plaque rupture, this can result in a blood clot forming over the rupture which could cause a heart attack or a stroke.
Everyone above the age of 20 years old should have their cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years. More frequent testing may be needed if your initial test results were not within the normal range or if you’re at higher risk of heart disease due to a family history of high cholesterol or heart attack, being overweight or physically inactive, suffer from diabetes, consume a high-fat diet, smoke cigarettes or above 45 years old (for men) or 55 years old (for women).
Simple lifestyle changes can also help to manage cholesterol levels:
- Being physically active can help to lower cholesterol levels. Try to exercise on most days of the week and increase your physical activity, for example, by aiming to walk 10,000 steps daily.
- By quitting the act of smoking, you can also improve your HDL cholesterol levels and decrease your blood pressure. Maintain
- Maintain a healthy body weight with an Ideal BMI between 18.5-24.9
- Include plant sterols in your daily diet: 1.2g of plant sterols daily can be easily consumed from 2 servings of Nestlé Omega Plus milk to manage cholesterol levels.
It is only through regular monitoring and prevention that cholesterol levels can be managed effectively as high cholesterol levels do not manifest any signs or symptoms.