Changing Parameters of Cholesterol
Have you ever wondered why doctors, before giving a diagnosis, often ask for two blood samples – one while you’re fasting and the other after you’ve eaten something? In most cases, these samples are used to check your cholesterol levels, which keep fluctuating based on your food intake. Fasting for 9-12 hours before the test is said to be the ideal scenario to measure correct cholesterol levels. Eating any form of food will cause the levels to fluctuate. The level is measured later again to help the doctor make a complete diagnosis.
To understand this phenomenon of fluctuating levels of cholesterol better, let us start with the definition of cholesterol. Most people simply assume that cholesterol is “bad”, because they do not have complete information about what it is and what it is used for in the body. (Read our article about “good” and “bad” cholesterol here: Good Cholesterol Versus Bad Cholesterol).
Cholesterol, very simply put, is a fat-like substance produced by the liver. It is used for various functions such as producing Vitamin D, supporting the cell membranes, producing bile acids that are useful for fat digestion and stimulating hormone production. Just like fat, normal levels of cholesterol are essential for the normal functioning of the body, and too much of it can be unhealthy.
Now that we know what cholesterol is, let us look at the larger picture to understand the long-term functioning of this important part of our bodies. When you undergo a test, your cholesterol is tested for two kinds of a substance known as lipoprotein. The “good” and “bad” cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein/LDL and high density lipoprotein/HDL. The values for these two types vary and are only indicative of how one’s body functions under those levels. Though there are medically defined “limits” for LDL and HDL, an individual’s overall health has to be considered before diagnosing any illnesses solely based on these numbers.
Cholesterol needs to travel every day. During its journey, as it makes its way out of the liver through the blood vessels and then back to the liver, its quantity in the body keeps fluctuating. It is estimated that cholesterol levels can fluctuate by as much as 10% in a month, due to our natural metabolism. There are a number of other factors or parameters that cause the levels of cholesterol to fluctuate. These are:
- Exercise – Any form of physical activity can contribute to a reduction in cholesterol levels. This is highly recommended for those whose cholesterol levels have been recorded to be high.
- Diet – Foods containing saturated fats and trans fats can contribute to a rise in your cholesterol levels. Such a diet is often blamed for being the primary reason for the fluctuations.
- Hormones – Hormones have a role to play in the fluctuation of cholesterol levels too, especially among women. It’s been observed that these levels fluctuate up to 19% in women, depending on the phase of their monthly menstrual cycle.
- Seasons – This may be a strange inclusion in this list, but it has been observed that seasons can affect fluctuations in cholesterol levels too. They have been noted to decrease during the summer and increase during the winter. Although the exact reason for this is yet to be determined, some researchers believe that the decrease in blood volume during the winter could be a factor.
Since it is not healthy for your body to have constantly fluctuating cholesterol levels, you should try maintaining a disciplined and healthy routine to keep yourself fit and keep them in check. You need not do anything special to achieve this, but the usual words of wisdom about being healthy apply here too. Avoid too much of fatty foods, get plenty of exercise and drink a healthy amount of water every day.
If you would like to know more about optimum/healthy levels of cholesterol, consult a CARE physician today.