11 foods that lower cholesterol

It’s easy to eat your way to an alarmingly high cholesterol level. The reverse is true, too — changing what foods you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the armada of fats floating through your bloodstream.

Doing this requires a two-pronged strategy: Add foods that lower LDL, the harmful cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging atherosclerosis. At the same time, cut back on foods that boost LDL. Without that step, you are engaging in a holding action instead of a steady — and tasty — victory.

In with the good:   

Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.

1. Oats. An easy first step to improving your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.)

2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.

3. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take awhile for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.

4. Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.

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5. Nuts. A bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.

6. Vegetable oils. Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL.

7. Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits. These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.

8. Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They’re also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%.

9. Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. Analyses show that the effect is more modest — consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.

10. Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.

11. Fiber supplements. Supplements offer the least appealing way to get soluble fiber. Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber.

Out with the bad:

Harmful LDL creeps upward and protective HDL drifts downward largely because of diet and other lifestyle choices. Genes play a role, too — some people are genetically programmed to respond more readily to what they eat — but genes aren’t something you can change. Here are four things you can:

Saturated fats.

Typical sources of saturated fat include animal products, such as red meat, whole-fat dairy products, and eggs, and also a few vegetable oils, such as palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter. Saturated fat can increase your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. But it has some benefits, too — it lowers triglycerides and nudges up levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

The role of saturated fat in heart disease is currently under debate. For now, it’s best to limit your intake of saturated-fat-rich foods.

Trans fats. The right amount of trans fats is zero! Trans fats are a byproduct of the chemical reaction that turns liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening and that prevents liquid vegetable oils from turning rancid. These fats have no nutritional value — and we know for certain they are bad for heart health. Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while reducing levels of HDL cholesterol.

Recently, the FDA banned trans fats from the U.S. food supply. The phasing-out process is expected to take three years. The encouraging news is that many major food suppliers and restaurants have already substituted healthier fats for trans fats.

Weight and exercise. Being overweight and not exercising affect fats circulating in the bloodstream. Excess weight boosts harmful LDL, while inactivity depresses protective HDL. Losing weight if needed and exercising more reverse these trends.

Putting it all together:

When it comes to investing money, experts recommend creating a portfolio of diverse investments instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for eating your way to lower cholesterol. Adding several foods to lower cholesterol in different ways should work better than focusing on one or two.

A largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowered LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants. Add margarine enriched with plant sterols; oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber; soy protein; and whole almonds.

Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily statin. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors. But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.

Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check. It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive. It’s good for bones and digestive health, for vision and mental health.

Resources: Harvard Health Publications

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Few Health Problems & solutions

DON’T IGNORE  SNORING:

Q: My husband snores loudly. Is this a sign of heart disease?

A:There are several subtle signs that can signal heart disease. Snoring and repeated episodes of sleep apnoea is one of them. The others are acanthosis nigricans (dark patches of velvety skin in the neck, armpit and groin), swelling of feet and giddiness or breathlessness on exertion such as walking. It is better to evaluate your BMI (weight divided by height in metre squared), check your blood pressure, blood sugars and lipid profile, and start a regular exercise regimen.

SWEET SLEEP:

Q: I feel tired and sleepy after meals, particularly after breakfast.

A:You may be suffering from post-prandial hypogylcaemia, a condition where the sugar levels in the body drop after eating. You may not be a diabetic and when tested, your blood sugars may be in the normal range. This condition is precipitated by eating foods high in carbohydrates. It also occurs after stomach surgery and in kidney disease. Symptoms will improve if you limit your intake of starchy foods, eat small frequent meals and add plenty of fruits and vegetables.

MUSCLE POWER:

Q: My mother broke her femur. It has been surgically fixed with screws, but she walks with the help of a walker. How long does this have to continue?

A:Take her for regular physiotherapy so that her leg muscles get strengthened with scientific exercise. Then, once the muscles are strong enough, (usually the physiotherapist works towards grade 4-5 power) she can dispense with the walker. If she tries to walk with weak muscles and no support, her leg can buckle, she can fall and injure herself again.

BLACK LIPS:

Q:My lips are black in colour. I wear lipstick to hide this, but they are getting darker.

A: Lips can darken because of photosensitivity, as a reaction to the chemicals in the lipstick used, or if you are inadvertently consuming heavy metals (which are ingredients in certain ayurvedic preparations. To lighten the lips naturally, add a few drops of lemon juice to plain paraffin wax and apply every night before sleeping.

DRY PALMS :

Q: My palms are dry and chapped. The corners of a few of my nails are red and painful.

A: This can happen if you wash dishes and clothes with detergent powder. Invest in a pair of rubber gloves and use them whenever you have to immerse your hands in water. Moisturise your hands for 15 minutes before a bath with coconut oil. Apply paraffin oil to your hands at night.

CANCER PUZZLE

Q: My mother developed lung cancer and died. I cannot understand why as she never smoked.

A: Lung cancer can also affect people who have never smoked. That is because they may have been exposed to second hand cigarette smoke from other members of the family, live in areas with high levels of pollution, are exposed to asbestos dust or do not exercise regularly. Avoid these risk factors, and hope for the best.

Resources:  The Telegraph (India, Kolkata)

Inguinal hernia

Description:
An inguinal hernia is a protrusion of abdominal-cavity contents through the inguinal canal. Symptoms are present in about 66% of affected people.
It occurs when tissue, such as part of the intestine, protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles. The resulting protrusion can be painful, especially when you cough, bend over or lift a heavy object, exercise, or bowel movements. Often it gets worse throughout the day and improves when lying down. A bulging area may occur that becomes larger when bearing down. Inguinal hernias occur more often on the right than left side. The main concern is strangulation, where the blood supply to part of the intestine is blocked. This usually produces severe pain and tenderness of the area.

CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

An inguinal hernia isn’t necessarily dangerous. It doesn’t improve on its own, however, and can lead to life-threatening complications. Your doctor is likely to recommend surgery to fix an inguinal hernia that’s painful or enlarging. Inguinal hernia repair is a common surgical procedure.

Sign & symptoms:
Hernias present as bulges in the groin area that can become more prominent when coughing, straining, or standing up. They are rarely painful, and the bulge commonly disappears on lying down. Mild discomfort can develop over time. The inability to “reduce”, or place the bulge back into the abdomen usually means the hernia is ‘incarcerated’ which requires emergency surgery.

Causes & Risk Factors:
There isn’t one cause for this type of hernia, but weak spots within the abdominal and groin muscles are thought to be a major contributor. Extra pressure on this area of the body can eventually cause a hernia.

*heredity
*personal history of hernias
*premature birth
*being overweight or obese
*pregnancy
*cystic fibrosis
*chronic cough
*frequent constipation
*frequently standing for long periods of time

Significant pain is suggestive of strangulated bowel (an incarcerated indirect inguinal hernia).

As the hernia progresses, contents of the abdominal cavity, such as the intestines, liver, can descend into the hernia and run the risk of being pinched within the hernia, causing an intestinal obstruction. If the blood supply of the portion of the intestine caught in the hernia is compromised, the hernia is deemed “strangulated” and gut ischemia and gangrene can result, with potentially fatal consequences. The timing of complications is not predictable. Emergency surgery for incarceration and strangulation carry much higher risk than planned, “elective” procedures. However, the risk of incarceration is low, evaluated at 0.2% per year. On the other hand, surgical intervention has a significant risk of causing inguinodynia, and this is why minimally symptomatic patients are advised to watchful waiting.

Diagnosis:
There are two types of inguinal hernia, direct and indirect, which are defined by their relationship to the inferior epigastric vessels. Direct inguinal hernias occur medial to the inferior epigastric vessels when abdominal contents herniate through a weak spot in the fascia of the posterior wall of the inguinal canal, which is formed by the transversalis fascia. Indirect inguinal hernias occur when abdominal contents protrude through the deep inguinal ring, lateral to the inferior epigastric vessels; this may be caused by failure of embryonic closure of the processus vaginalis.

Direct inguinal hernia: Enters through a weak point in the fascia of the abdominal wall (Hesselbach triangle)

Indirect inguinal hernia: Protrudes through the inguinal ring and is ultimately the result of the failure of embryonic closure of the processus vaginalis after the testicle passes through it.

In the case of the female, the opening of the superficial inguinal ring is smaller than that of the male. As a result, the possibility for hernias through the inguinal canal in males is much greater because they have a larger opening and therefore a much weaker wall through which the intestines may protrude.

A physical exam is usually all that’s needed to diagnose an inguinal hernia. Your doctor will check for a bulge in the groin area. Because standing and coughing can make a hernia more prominent, you’ll likely be asked to stand and cough or strain.

If the diagnosis isn’t readily apparent, your doctor might order an imaging test, such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.

Treatment:

If your hernia is small and isn’t bothering you, your doctor might recommend watchful waiting. In children, the doctor might try applying manual pressure to reduce the bulge before considering surgery.

Enlarging or painful hernias usually require surgery to relieve discomfort and prevent serious complications.

There are two general types of hernia operations — open hernia repair and laparoscopic repair.

Open hernia repair:
In this procedure, which might be done with local anesthesia and sedation or general anesthesia, the surgeon makes an incision in your groin and pushes the protruding tissue back into your abdomen. The surgeon then sews the weakened area, often reinforcing it with a synthetic mesh (hernioplasty). The opening is then closed with stitches, staples or surgical glue.

After the surgery, you’ll be encouraged to move about as soon as possible, but it might be several weeks before you’re able to resume normal activities.

Laparoscopy:
In this minimally invasive procedure, which requires general anesthesia, the surgeon operates through several small incisions in your abdomen. Gas is used to inflate your abdomen to make the internal organs easier to see.

A small tube equipped with a tiny camera (laparoscope) is inserted into one incision. Guided by the camera, the surgeon inserts tiny instruments through other incisions to repair the hernia using synthetic mesh.

People who have laparoscopic repair might have less discomfort and scarring after surgery and a quicker return to normal activities. However, some studies indicate that hernia recurrence is more likely with laparoscopic repair than with open surgery.

Laparoscopy allows the surgeon to avoid scar tissue from an earlier hernia repair, so it might be a good choice for people whose hernias recur after traditional hernia surgery. It also might be a good choice for people with hernias on both sides of the body (bilateral).

Some studies indicate that a laparoscopic repair can increase the risk of complications and of recurrence. Having the procedure performed by a surgeon with extensive experience in laparoscopic hernia repairs can reduce the risks.

Prevention and Outlook of Inguinal Hernias:
Although you can’t prevent genetic defects that may cause hernias, it’s possible to lessen the severity of hernias by:

*Maintaining a healthy weight
*Eating a high-fiber diet
*Not smoking
*Avoiding heavy lifting

Early treatment can help cure inguinal hernias. However, there’s always the slight risk of recurrence and complications, such as infection after surgery, scars.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inguinal_hernia
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inguinal-hernia/home/ovc-20206354
http://www.healthline.com/health/inguinal-hernia?isLazyLoad=false#causes3

Health quaries & solutions

Q: I have a drippy nose, tearing eyes and constant sneezing. I am unable to concentrate on my work.

A: You seem to have allergies. Try to figure out if any specific allergen causes the symptoms. If you are indoors most of the day, you need to invest in a vacuum cleaner to rid the house of dust. Avoid cotton mattresses and enclose foam mattresses in plastic covers. Room fresheners and vapourizing mosquito repellents are also notorious for causing sneezing and coughing. Consult your physician and see if you will do well with regular usage of non absorbable steroid nasal sprays and non-sedating antihistamines. Take steam inhalations twice a day. Do aerobic exercise like walking or jogging for 40 minutes twice a week. Join a yoga class. The breathing exercises are really beneficial.

FROZEN FINGERS

Q: My fingers are stiff, swollen and painful when I get up in the morning. I am unable to open and close my hands.

A:See a doctor to check whether you are retaining fluid in your body. This may be due to anaemia, kidney and liver problems or endocrine diseases such as hypothyroidism. Even early rheumatoid arthritis can cause “morning stiffness.” Until the diagnosis is established, soak your hands in salted hot water for 10 minutes morning and evening. Hold a firm rubber ball under water and squeeze it rhythmically 20-30 times. See if you require painkillers or diuretics.

LIVER PROBLEM:

Q: I don’t drink at all. Now the doctor says I have mild liver damage. How is that possible?

A: Many things (not just alcohol) can damage the liver. Obesity can cause “fatty liver,” as can overmedicating with pain killers (even paracetemol), taking herbal supplements or overdosing with vitamin A. Snacks with transfats, and the fructose and other sweetening agents in cola drinks can all damage the liver, especially if you are in the habit of overindulging.

I FORGET

Q: As I get older I find that I have memory lapses. I am worried that I may develop Alzheimer’s.

A: Memory does get affected with age.

To slow down the deterioration,

• Get 40 minutes of exercise in fresh air daily

• Do cross word puzzles and play memory games regularly

• Learn poetry or pieces from your religious books by heart

• Keep diabetes, hypertension and lipids under control

BOWEL BLOCK (CONSTIPATION)

Q: I am constipated all the time. It makes life very difficult.

A: Constipation means that you pass three or less stools per week and they are of a hard consistency. You need to consult a physician to see if you have any medical issues or medications causing the problem. You also need to consult a doctor if if there is abdominal pain or blood in the motion. Otherwise, the symptoms will improve if you increase the quantity of fluid you drink to three litres a day. Add four to six helpings of fruits and vegetables to your diet. Fix a time to go to the toilet every day. Laxatives and other medications are not really the answer. They make the intestines non responsive to natural stimuli. It also makes intestines habituated, so higher doses are needed over time for the same response.


Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)