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Urban lifestyle: The culprit behind high cholesterol levels among young adults

By Nithin Sridhar

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A latest study conducted by Raman Puri, chairman of Lipid Association of India, has revealed that at least 23% of youths in Delhi who are below the age of 19-years have high cholesterol levels.

During the study, samples from 2,508 boys and girls were taken and analyzed. The study also revealed that females are more prone to cholesterol risks than males.

Ram Puri has been quoted as saying: “High prevalence of atherogenic lipid profile (reason behind heart attack and stroke), low HDL levels (good cholesterol) and high body mass index has been noted in the youth population in Delhi and its adjoining areas.”

The study has again shed light on dangers of cholesterol and associated unhealthy lifestyle.

What is cholesterol and how does it affect people?

Cholesterol is basically a fat substance that is produced in liver and released into bloodstream. It can also enter the bloodstream through the food one eats. Cholesterol plays a vital role in maintaining structural integrity and fluidity of cell membranes.

There are three types of cholesterol: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol, Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and Triglycerides. The LDL causes cholesterol buildup and blockages in the arteries, whereas HDL relieves such blockages by expelling the extra cholesterol from the arteries. Therefore, LDL is bad for heart as it can cause chest pain, heart attack, kidney problems, strokes etc. whereas HDL is good as it prevents heart problems and lowers the risk of getting heart attacks.

Triglycerides are another kind of fats that are harmful to heart if present in high levels. They are most often found in people who are either alcoholics or have diabetes.

The total cholesterol level in the bloodstream should be maintained below 200 mg/dL and anything beyond 240 mg/dL is considered high and harmful. The LDL specifically must be below 100 mg/dL and anything higher than 160 mg/dl is considered very risky.

The HDL levels of good cholesterol should be at least 60 mg/dL and anything lower than 40 mg/dL is considered risky. Triglycerides are considered risky if their levels are beyond 200 mg/dL.

Cholesterol and Urban Lifestyle

The three major factors that give rise to high cholesterol are diet, body-weight and physical activity. The diet should be limited to low-fat foods. Foods containing high levels of fats like meat and full fat dairy products will give increased cholesterol level. Additionally, the junk foods and oily foods also contribute to obesity and increased cholesterol levels.

The urban lifestyle is such that people are too busy in their lives to spend time in taking care of their body. In an over populated city like Delhi, there is a dearth of parks and grounds where children can play and adults can go for a walk. Moreover, students are too busy watching TV or are occupied with their studies or are using computers, so they rarely go out.

Hence, the very lifestyle that is being followed in metros and other urban areas is the main culprit behind increased cholesterol levels in young people. The fast foods, the road-side foods, smoking and alcohol, excessive meat consumption, daily routine that includes school, homework, TV and internet with very less physical outdoor activities are all contributing towards increasing health issues among young adults.

Reducing cholesterol level

Instead of going for medical interventions to reduce cholesterol levels, one to should work on the three issues of diet, body-weight, and physical activity. People should eat foods which contain low levels of fat and more amounts of proteins, fiber, and other vitamins.

People should also reduce intake of meat and dairy products and must avoid fast-foods. Smoking and alcohol intake must be reduced and if possible, totally avoided. Physical workout in the form of walking, jogging, exercises or yoga must be practiced for at least 30 minutes daily.

These simple actions that regulate food and physical activity will go a long way in keeping cholesterol levels within permissible limits and improving the general health of the people.

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