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Cholesterol is a type of lipid molecule or animal sterol that is required in small amounts to produce certain hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids. It is an important component of animal cell membrane. It is mainly found in animal products, like eggs, meat, and dairy products. The excess cholesterol gets deposited within the arteries, and reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart. This is considered one of the leading causes of strokes and heart attacks.

The fats and cholesterol we consume go to the liver, where they are combined with proteins to produce lipoperoteins. There are mainly two types of lipoproteins - low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). These are the main cholesterol found in our body, of which the LDL cholesterol is termed as the 'bad cholesterol', while HDL cholesterol is called the 'good cholesterol'.

It is the high level of LDL cholesterol that is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Ideally, the total level of cholesterol in blood should be less than 200mg/dl, and the level of LDL cholesterol should be less than 130mg/dl. On the other hand, a HDL cholesterol level more than 60mg/dl is considered good for the health of the cardiovascular system.

How to Lower the level of Cholesterol in the Body

Dietary Modifications
An excessive consumption of fats, especially saturated fats can raise the level of cholesterol in the body. It is true that fats are important for our health, and so, we should not exclude them from our diet. What we need to do is cut down or reduce the intake of saturated fats, and replace them with healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

The important sources of saturated fats and cholesterol are, dairy products like whole milk, butter, and cheese, margarine, eggs, red meat like pork and beef, and junk foods. On the other hand, foods that are rich in unsaturated fats are, fish, nuts like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts, olive oil, and canola oil.

It is also important to increase the amount of dietary fiber to lower the level of cholesterol in the body. So, include foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and oatmeal in your diet. Fibers can help lower the level of total, as well as LDL cholesterol in the blood. Certain beverages like green tea can also help lower the level of LDL cholesterol in the body.

Foods that contain plant sterols and stanols can also prove effective in lowering the level of blood cholesterol. Examples of such food are, brown rice, whole wheat, nuts and pumpkin seeds, and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, etc. Nowadays, you can also find a number of products fortified with plant stanols and sterols.

Exercise
Regular physical activity can significantly reduce the level of total and LDL cholesterol. It can also help raise the level of HDL cholesterol, which is considered good for the health of the heart and the cardiovascular system. You can immensely benefit from mild to moderate exercises like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling.

Medications
Dietary modifications and regular physical activity can no doubt lower the level of blood cholesterol. But these measures can take some time to produce the desired results. So, you may need medications if your blood cholesterol level is too high, which can increase the risk of developing life-threatening conditions. Before taking any cholesterol-lowering medication, never forget to talk to your physician. Try to find out the possible side effects, and what kind of precautions are required to be taken while on medication.

So, you may need the additional help of medications to control the level of cholesterol, along with dietary and lifestyle modifications. Cigarette smoking has been recognized as a major factor that can lower the level of HDL cholesterol, and thereby increase the risk of heart diseases. Therefore, avoid smoking, and also reduce the consumption of alcohol to stay healthy.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.