Hyperlipidemia – High cholesterol

Description of high blood cholesterol according to Modern and Vedic Literature:
Modern Medicine – According to modern medicine, cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that our liver produces naturally, that passes through the blood and is present in every cell of a body. It is vital in the digestion process, formation of hormones and vitamin D. Cholesterol can be derived from animal-based products such as meat, eggs, and cheese. When the level of cholesterol rises more than the normal requirement in our blood and body then it is called high cholesterol.
Vedic Literature – According to Vedic literature, an increase in ‘meda dhatu’ or fat tissue in a person’s body corresponds with high cholesterol. The word media comes from medas, which stands for greasy or lubricating substances.
Ayurveda explains 3 doshas or functional energies constitute a human body termed Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. High cholesterol level is due to an improper diet which is caused due to Kapha imbalance. As a result, improper digestion occurs, and metabolism slows down. It affects Pitta as well as Kapha dosha as excess fat will obstruct the movement and cause blockages.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels in the blood known as Lipoproteins can be determined using pathological tests and are categorized as follows:

  • Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL is known as bad cholesterol. It is responsible for blocking blood flow in the arteries.
  • High-Density Lipoprotein or HDL is called good cholesterol. It absorbs cholesterol and returns it to the liver for further digestion.
  • Very-Low-Density Lipoproteins or VLDL are components that hold triglycerides. It is a sort of fat and a rise in triglycerides that can lead to heart disease. The degree of risk is more among women.

Causes of High Cholesterol
The fat or lipid in excess can integrate and create plaque, which blocks the arteries and blood flow. The development of plaque is referred to as atherosclerosis. The cholesterol level rises because of the following:

  • Improper Diet– An unhealthy diet can raise blood cholesterol beyond normal limits. Animal-based products like cheese, butter, etc. have a huge amount of saturated fat. Overconsumption of fast food or fried food can also increase trans fat levels in the body.
  • Age and Gender– The age of an individual plays a significant role. An aged person has slower metabolism and digestive rate. In the case of women, the cholesterol level increases after menopause. So, the risk is higher in women.
  • Weight – Being overweight is a common cause of increased lipids. A body mass index or BMI of more than 30 is significant for having elevated blood cholesterol.
  • Lack of exercise – A sedentary lifestyle is responsible for weight gain and poor digestion resulting in high levels of lipids.
  • Diabetes – Diabetes, or insulin resistance is responsible for improper digestion of fats and thus leads to dyslipidemia.
  • Smoking and Alcohol – Frequent smoking and consuming alcohol leads to the disposition of fat or lipid which increases plaque formation in the arteries. It also reduces the good cholesterol in the body.

There are no specific symptoms of high blood cholesterol. A person with higher cholesterol can experience the following:

  • Difficulty in breathing on exertion
  • Unable to perform daily activities with energy.
  • Chest discomfort and pain
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral Artery Disease
  • Heart attack

The risk of heart-related health issues with increased levels of lipids is always greater than other health concerns. Thus, a periodic blood cholesterol check is helpful in the prevention of cardiovascular problems.

Ayurveda recommendations for managing high cholesterol:

  • Change in eating habits by reducing the consumption of red meat and other animal fat.
  • Avoid refined sugar as well as carbohydrates, which are common in cookies, bread, etc. A vegetarian diet is a good alternative as well as full of good cholesterol.
  • Adding food such as grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, fibre, and seeds to a daily diet.
  • Consuming omega 3 rich food such as avocado, salmon, sardines, flax seeds is beneficial.

Lifestyle Changes:

  • An active lifestyle is essential to manage elevated lipids. Cardiovascular exercises such as aerobics, brisk walking, running are beneficial.
  • Yoga plays an important role to improve lipids as well as burning fat. Simple yoga poses along with guided breathing exercises such as Pranayama helps in better circulation and heart function.
  • Yoga Nidra is a technique of relaxation. It helps to relax the nerves and gives a sense of calm. It can be practised daily for 20 mins after a regular workout which can bring about a complete state of relaxation and well-being.
  • Meditation is useful to reduce stress levels significantly. Practising meditation along with the breath control technique is incredibly useful.

Ayurvedic herbs for high cholesterol:
Psyllium husk

  • The fibre reduces LDL by binding the fat as well as bile acid in the body. As a result, the liver utilizes more and more cholesterol.
  • Psyllium is useful for improving good cholesterol too.
  • It can be consumed in the form of powder with water or as a capsule.
  • Psyllium can also be used for managing blood pressure, constipation, and diarrhoea. Also, it is beneficial for people with high insulin levels or blood sugar.
  • Psyllium controls hunger and helps in reducing weight or obesity.

Guggulu –
This is prepared from the yellowish gum resin or oil sap of the guggul tree. This tree goes by the name Mukul myrrh tree, gugal, or gugul. It boosts good cholesterol and reduces bad cholesterol in the body. This Ayurvedic herb helps in clearing the plaque in the arteries, which improves blood flow.

Guggulu aids weight loss and improves metabolism. It is used in combination as well as on its own. It should be avoided and used with caution by:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • Lactating mothers
  • Elderly people with severe co-morbidities

Other useful Herbs:

  • Onion – Allium cepa
  • Oat Bran – Avena Sativa
  • Garlic – Allium sativum
  • Barley – Hordeum vulgare
  • Turmeric – Curcuma longa
  • Flax Seeds – Linum usitatissimum

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