How is your Cholesterol Level Linked with Body Composition?
Role of Cholesterol in your Body
Cholesterol is a waxy substance in nature and is fat-based. It is mostly supplied to the body through the food we eat and is also synthesized by the liver to fulfill its requirements. These are carried in the body via the blood in the form of lipoproteins. Most of the time, we judge cholesterol as an unwanted molecule. However, it is important to understand why it is actually needed. Cholesterol has an extensive role in the formation of body structures and in functional regulation. This includes cell wall, cell membrane, and organelle formation. Hormones and also important body nutrients like vitamin D are synthesized with the help of cholesterol. Moreover, it is an important constituent of bile which makes the digestion of fat.
Synthesis and Metabolism of Cholesterol in your Body
The importance of cholesterol in our body indicates what threat a total elimination of fat from the diet can pose. This is why a balanced diet is recommended even in an attempt at weight reduction. The question here is what extent of cholesterol consumption is above the safe limit. 80% of the cholesterol found in the body is made in the liver. The lanosterol pathway shunt is the process that makes cholesterol by using isoprene units and Acetyl CoA as a precursor. The whole process is then catalyzed by HMG-CoA enzymes to make cholesterol. Molecules of cholesterol are metabolized in the endoplasmic reticulum from the same enzyme Acetyl CoA and HMG CoA and then broken down into fatty acids, glucose, and certain other amino acids. It is not completely decomposed but remains in the body in the form of other biomolecules.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is found as low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, very low-density lipoprotein, and chylomicrons. high-density lipoprotein is termed “good cholesterol” because it takes up the fat molecules from the cells and body tissues and moves them towards the liver. This increases fat metabolism and excretion, thus lowering the chances of atherosclerosis. LDL is the “bad cholesterol” because it works the opposite way by bringing the cholesterol from the liver to the tissues and body cells. Very Low-Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) and chylomicrons are basically responsible for carrying triglycerides from the liver to the adipose tissue and skeletal muscles.
Understanding the “Good” and the “Bad” Cholesterol
Normal range of HDL cholesterol levels
When we say a person has high cholesterol, we mean a higher concentration of bad cholesterol or higher Low-Density Lipoprotein. This increases the fat levels in and around the tissues and organs. This suppresses the activity of those organs and tissues, causing various diseases that can be fatal. The normal range of cholesterol levels is different for each type of cholesterol. For HDL cholesterol, the normal range is 40mg/dl – 60mg/dl. For LDL, it is 70mg/dl to 100mg/dl. And for triglycerides, the ideal normal value is less than 100mg/dl. The borderline values of cholesterol levels vary slightly with age and gender.
Exceeds the normal range
If the level of bad cholesterol exceeds the normal range, the body has the potential to store the cholesterol molecules at highly unwanted sites. This risks the development of diseases. The usual sites of deposition are the blood vessels. Coronary arteries are one of the main targets of cholesterol deposition. Over time, these deposits grow in size and occlude the flow of blood through the blood vessels. It is then called a plaque which has some calcium deposition along with cholesterol and becomes the basis of stroke and heart attack. This is why regular screening for cholesterol is advertised as much as the screenings for glucose and blood pressure.
High cholesterol symptoms
A high cholesterol level is usually accompanied by a few symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, and even numbness or coldness in the body extremities. It is mostly assumed that people who have normal body weight and size do not have a risk of developing high cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, this idea is wrong. A person could have maintained ideal body weight and could have consumed a high cholesterol diet at the same time. This leads to cholesterol accumulation and lack of cholesterol catabolism, making it difficult to eliminate it from the body. Extreme fatigue, nausea, and pain in the jaws, neck, and upper abdomen can also signify high cholesterol. Patients with high cholesterol levels and borderline cholesterol levels are strongly advised to make regular visits to their physician.
What Happens When You Have High Cholesterol Levels?
When the values transgress from the normal cholesterol levels, multiple disease conditions emerge and cause chronic damage to the patient. Although all the values of cholesterol types are taken into account, the total cholesterol level is usually assessed to check the patient’s risk. The normal range for total cholesterol is less than 200mg/dl, but less than this value is always better. A typical example of the disease arising from high cholesterol levels is atherosclerosis which blocks the blood vessels, usually leading to myocardial infarction or heart attack. In addition, increased fat deposition around the other vital organs, such as the kidney, is fatal. Fatty liver is one of the conditions observed; as a result, leading to cirrhosis and hepatocarcinoma.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there are about 95 million adults in the USA alone who have high levels of total cholesterol in their body, i.e., 200mg/dl or higher. When managing body cholesterol levels, certain lifestyle parameters need to be improved or incorporated directly. The main intervention intended by the medical practitioners is to address the risk factors and pharmacotherapy (use of cholesterol-lowering medicines). There are things that should be regulated in the normal routine and other things that should be completely abandoned.
Risk Factors of hypercholesterolemia
People who are used to consuming alcohol are strictly recommended to stop its use. Smoking cessation is yet another strong recommendation made by physicians for effective cholesterol level management in the body. High cholesterol-containing food should be avoided too. Sometimes, we are not aware of the foods that have high-fat levels and can be converted into cholesterol, so awareness is important. Full-fat dairy products like rich milk, yogurt, cheese, butter should be avoided, but skimmed ones can be used. Processed and canned foods have been observed to increase bad cholesterol levels. Fried food, baked food, and fatty meat like red meat are the other foods that should be avoided for effective cholesterol level management.
As we age, the risk of developing heart diseases increases. This is in congruence with high levels of cholesterol rise, and the normal threshold shows a little rise over the average range. This puts the geriatrics class of the population at an increased risk of hypercholesterolemia. This is one of the main reasons we see many elders suffering from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and even peripheral arterial disease. Most of the time, people focus on treating the apparent disease they have and forget to focus on the basal disarray in their bodies. For example, proper management of cholesterol levels can improve insulin sensitivity, and the patient’s condition might not exacerbate from pre-diabetic to diabetic if cholesterol levels are controlled in time.
Genetics is another factor that affects cholesterol levels and alters their normal threshold. Genes transfer a lot of factors from parents to children, including hereditary diseases, like hypercholesterolemia. Certain genes affect your body and instruct them on how to metabolize and synthesize cholesterol and to what extent these processes would be done in an individual. So, to put it simply, if a person’s parents have had high cholesterol levels, the children automatically are at higher risk of developing hypercholesterolemia too. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia, and it has to be controlled with medications along with diet and exercise.
What does Cholesterol Level Have to do with Body Composition?
The LDL cholesterol is more often associated with body fat percentage instead of the body mass index. Scientists have found out that people who have lower body fat percentages have increased levels of HDL and lower levels of LDL and triglycerides. Exercise is the main factor that gets you here, and body composition reflects cholesterol levels in this way.
Studies published in PubMD (2013) show that practicing resistance exercise done by older adults over a period of 12 weeks shows a consistent decrease in their blood cholesterol levels. The participants showed an improvement in their body composition. The lean body mass was increased, and the fat mass seemingly decreased, which shifted their bodies towards the ideal body composition. A decrease of 6mg/dl in HDL, 18mg/dl in LDL, and 26mg/dl in triglycerides were observed at the end of 12 weeks.
Obesity and its Relation with Cholesterol Levels:
If you are overweight, the chances are that you have increased levels of cholesterol in your blood. But this is not true in every case. Sometimes, a person with ideal body weight can still have higher blood cholesterol levels. When you have increased fat in your body, its metabolism increases the levels of free fatty acids, which ultimately move to the liver and get converted into cholesterol. If you have extra weight around the abdomen and the buttocks, there’s a high chance you are obese as well as have hypercholesterolemia. This is exactly why people with high blood cholesterol levels are advised to reduce weight for effective cholesterol management.
Use Visbody to Analyze your Body Composition
As mentioned above, body composition is an indirect measure of knowing your status of total cholesterol levels in the blood. Increased or altered body fat percentage can be assessed for this purpose, and Visbody is the perfect software to do so. It is a 3D body scanner for effective body composition analysis and is highly recommended for all medical parameters that directly or indirectly link with body composition.
Tips to Lower your Body Cholesterol Level:
The intake of healthy foods and exercising on a regular basis is as important as eliminating the risk factors from your life. Both these things go hand in hand for an effective cholesterol management plan. Cereals like oats and barley are proven to be very beneficial for high cholesterol patients. Beans, nuts, and legumes have healthy fats, i.e., non-trans fats, which helps in the catabolism of fats and cholesterol in the liver. Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, and green leafy vegetables, for example, spinach, lettuce, and cabbage are very good for such patients. Physicians have also recommended taking okra, eggplant, and foods containing high omega-3-fatty acids and soluble fibers.
Exercise is the next most important thing. People who have a sedentary lifestyle usually end up getting caught in chronic disease. They have low chances of recovery or a slower pace of healing because of poor immunity. Exercising and getting the biorhythm on track with the external environment is key to a healthy body. Some people do not take exercising in broad daylight very seriously. Basically, getting sunlight with exercise optimizes the levels of hormones released from your brain and helps in the maintenance of an efficient body metabolic process. Only moderate exercise can increase the level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which is “good cholesterol.” Thirty minutes of a light walk is found to be beneficial for cholesterol level improvement too.
Smoking cessation is another very important factor that can regulate the cholesterol levels in your body. It is known that the nicotine and other harmful substances found in cigarette smoke make cholesterol a lot stickier than it is. This increased its capacity of sticking on the walls of the blood vessels and in the organ tissues doing a lot more damage than the cholesterol possibly would. Hence, quitting smoking is found to be helpful in decreasing the risk of developing stroke and heart attack-like diseases in the long term.
If you have high cholesterol levels, it is suggested to make healthy lifestyle changes along with following the prescribed medication pattern to prevent disease aggravation. Do not forget to get yourself analyzed with the Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) and use smart applications like Visbody for effective cholesterol level management and preventing the future possibility of hypercholesterolemia because the more aware you are, the better for your health!
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