All about Cholesterol and Heart Disease

  • Health Insurance

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

India has had a long and tough history with heart disease. A recent study showed that the situation hasn't changed much, with the average age at which people get the first heart attack coming in at 53 years. This is around 10 years earlier than the average age for their counterparts in developed countries.[1]

So, the fact of the matter is that India and Indians are no strangers to heart disease. That said, not many people are aware of the underlying causes of heart attacks or cardiac arrests. There are many reasons that can lead to heart disease, like stress, poor lifestyle choices, high blood pressure and more.

Cholesterol is another leading cause of heart disease among Indians.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can be found in the body's cells. It helps your body make important chemicals like hormones, vitamin D, and some other substances that help with digestion. Typically, your liver naturally makes all the cholesterol that it requires from day to day.

But this substance is also found in a variety of foods like dairy products, eggs and meat. So, if you eat too many foods containing cholesterol, your body eventually tends to have an excess of this substance. And sometimes, that can be bad for the body. It all depends on the kind of cholesterol we're talking about.

The different types of cholesterol

Cholesterol is mainly of two types, and each type is starkly different from the other. Check out the two types of cholesterol that may be formed or accumulated in your body.

  • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL):

    Also known as good cholesterol, this substance helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the body. If the level of HDL is 60 or more, it helps reduce the chances of developing heart disease. But a HDL level of 40 or less increases the chances of heart disease.
  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL):

    LDL is bad cholesterol, since it can build up in your arteries, thereby increasing the blood pressure and eventually causing blockages. An LDL of 130 or higher can be harmful for the body.

How does cholesterol affect heart health?

Good cholesterol does not pose much of a risk. But when too much bad cholesterol builds up in your body, it becomes a problem. This LDL gets collected in the arteries that carry blood from the heart. It forms fatty deposits known as plaque.

And the arteries therefore become smaller, making it essential for your heart to pump harder, so blood can reach the organs in the body. This leads to high blood pressure and puts a great deal of strain on the heart. Eventually, these deposits may break away from their source and lead to a clot. Or, they may block the artery completely, leading to blockages. And both clots and blockages can cause a heart attack.

Tips to control or reduce cholesterol

Clearly, LDL is not good for the body. Having higher levels of HDL, on the other hand, may actually prove to be beneficial since it helps get rid of the bad cholesterol. That said, is it possible to control or reduce cholesterol in the body? Well yes, and here is what you can do to achieve these results.

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet

    Foods with high saturated fat and trans fat content increase the levels of LDL in the body. Instead, opt for a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and protein. This will keep the levels of bad cholesterol down.

  • Exercise regularly

    Experts suggest that exercising for around 30 minutes each day can help reduce LDL levels and increase HDL levels. So, try and accommodate some form of exercise in your daily routine to keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk of cardiac arrest and heart disease.

  • Maintain a healthy weight

    Being overweight or obese can be a major risk factor in rising the cholesterol levels in the body. Make a few changes to your routine to bring your weight within the healthy range. This way, you can keep the body's cholesterol levels in check.

  • Eliminate harmful lifestyle habits

    Habits like smoking and drinking can put a great deal of stress on the heart and the liver. Slowly quit these habits if you have them. Also, ensure that you do not let your sedentary lifestyle get the better of you. Get up and walk around a bit every 20 minutes or so.

  • Get other medical conditions treated

    Some medical conditions like liver disease, hypothyroidism and kidney disease can elevate the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. If these are the underlying causes, they need to be treated at the earliest, so the heart can remain unaffected.

Critical illness insurance for heart disease

While the above tips and tricks may help you keep your body's cholesterol levels in check, you also need to do a little something to protect your finances in case heart disease comes knocking. That little something is buying a critical illness cover when you are young and healthy. It offers financial protection in case you are diagnosed with any critical illness such as heart disease.

A critical illness insurance plan is essential because the future is uncertain. For instance, even if you follow all the steps needed to keep cholesterol at bay, you may develop another health condition that leads to high cholesterol levels. An unexpected hospitalisation could be a financial shocker, since you may not be prepared to meet the costs of medical treatment or surgeries, if needed.

But with a critical illness cover like the ABSLI CritiShield Plan, you can rely on the financial payouts from the policy to cover the costs of treating your condition. So, ensure that you get your critical illness insurance plan when you are still young and healthy to enjoy the benefit of affordable premiums.

Conclusion

If you have high levels of cholesterol, there is no reason to panic. With a few lifestyle changes, and by identifying the underlying cause of high cholesterol, you can regulate the LDL levels in your body and minimise the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. But the important thing is to take these steps in a timely manner.

[1] https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/health/india-s-burden-of-heart-diseases-study-says-elderly-women-more-at-risk-74993
ABSLI CritiShield Plan(UIN: 109N104V02) is a traditional non participating health insurance plan.
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