Uno of the main values that we are going to check as soon as we receive the results of the blood tests is the one related to cholesterol. When the risk is too high cardiovascular diseases increases. To lower it, however, unlike what one might think, there are not only drugs. Nutrition and physical activity can do a lot. In fact, statins – drugs used to lower cholesterol – should only be used when these two strategies fail. Yet, according to numerous analyzes, these drugs are still overused as a first attempt to lower their levels. (Text edited by Umberto Veronesi Foundation)
What is cholesterol?
ll cholesterol is a fat – largely produced by the body and minimally introduced with the diet – essential for carrying out various functions in the body. He is involved in the digestion process, thanks to the formation of bile. Take part in the vitamin D production, useful for bone health; favors the cell wall construction, in particular of the nervous system. And the precursor of hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
Hdl and Ldl: good and bad
Cholesterol is transported in the blood by means of specifications lipoproteins which differ on the basis of size and density: we therefore distinguish cholesterol linked to low-density lipoproteins (LDL), so-called “bad” as it can deposit in the artery walls. This contributes enormously to the genesis ofatherosclerosis narrowing of blood vessels, a condition often associated with the development of cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke). The HDL cholesterol, that linked to lipoproteins high density is defined “Good” because it does not cause any damage to the arteries but, on the contrary, removing cholesterol from the vessel walls to transport it to the liver is a guarantee of protection if present in good quantity.
Cholesterol: which foods to avoid and which to prefer
If the cholesterol values do not exceed the recommended thresholds by much, it is possible to run for cover by working on the diet and trying to limit especially the nutrients capable of increasing LDL cholesterol levels. So beware of fats in general, but especially to the saturated ones, present in foods such as meat, chocolate, sweets, and fried or processed foods. IS to trans fats, which are found for example in some solid fats such as margarines and in products containing them. Go ahead instead for foods rich in soluble fiber which help reduce the absorption of fats in the intestine: whole grains, fruits and legumes are suitable for the purpose.
Diet and physical activity, drugs when needed
To stay within limits, if you are healthy, you don’t need drugs. The most powerful weapon for primary cardiovascular prevention is represented by the adoption of an active lifestyle. L’physical exercise regular improves the capacity of the heart to pump blood, it helps to control the peso bodyor and can do lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The same applies to the diet. By replacing butter and red meat with extra virgin olive oil, fish and possibly white meats, you can reduce bad cholesterol and keep the good one intact. But when all this is not enough, then it is necessary to resort to drugs.
Not just statins
The basis for the treatment is represented by statins: administered alone or in combination with ezetimibe. However, their intake is not always sufficient, especially in people at high risk (due to familiarity or previous cardiovascular events). The alternative, in these cases, is represented by monoclonal antibodies, taken via fortnightly or monthly subcutaneous injections. Until recently, they could only be prescribed to those with familial hypercholesterolemia, but now the indication is extended to all high-risk patients.