What To Do When You Realize You Have High Cholesterol?
Malaysia is known as the “Food Paradise of Asia”, as it offers a diverse and exotic mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine, which reflects the multicultural mix of the nation. Malaysians are always proud of our local delicacies, something we’d fight for if someone denies Malaysian food is the best. Not only we are famous with our local delicacies, but Malaysia is also ranked number 1 “Fattest Country” in South East Asia! According to the Health and Morbidity Survey in 2015, 47.7% of Malaysians had high cholesterol levels and the majority of them were not aware that they had high cholesterol levels.
Malaysians are ignorant about their cholesterol levels. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad explained during the press conference on the fight against high cholesterol and heart disease in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, that misconception over the “silent killer” of high blood cholesterol is driving Malaysians to falsely think that it is associated with gender, body weight, and fitness level. The truth is, ignorance over the effects of high blood cholesterol increases cases of heart diseases and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Malaysia, especially among the youths.
High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for heart diseases. Cholesterol circulates in our blood. When the amount of cholesterol in our blood increases, the risk to our health increases too. Cholesterol can harden and clot our arteries, causing narrowing and heart attack or stroke can result. That’s why it’s important to have our cholesterol tested, to understand our cholesterol level and to prevent having high cholesterol levels.
Here comes the question, what happens if you found out you have high cholesterol levels?
The main goal is to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, also known as the “bad” cholesterol to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. There are two ways to reduce your cholesterol levels, the first way is therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC), which includes a cholesterol-lowering diet, physical activity, and weight management. This is for people with LDL level that’s at borderline (slightly above 2.6mmol/L). For those with higher LDL levels will be suggested to start the cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as a statin. However, there’s a study published in the journal Heart found that 51% of patients had an insufficient drop in cholesterol even while taking the drugs. Some even reported side effects such as muscle pain, upset stomach, increased liver enzymes and etc after taking statins for the long term.
It is always recommended to practice a healthy lifestyle whether or not you are diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, or with the usage of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Start with a healthy balanced diet that helps with cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory. Increase food intake that’s high in Omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants, such as nuts, seeds, salmon, cold-pressed olive oil, beans, leafy greens, and oats. Also, remember to start exercising, start a weight management program if you are overweight, drink more water and have enough sleep!
As it’s always said, prevention is always better than cure! Don’t worry if you’ve already started statins for a period of time, start practicing a healthy lifestyle and gradually decrease the dosage of drugs until none!
Written by: Jasmine Lim
(Love Earth Nutritionist)
[Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietics (major) &
Food Science (minor) lowa State University, USA]