High Cholesterol: A Silent Killer
Currently, the average lifespan of a Nigerian is about 55 years, as compared to 67 years for Kenyans and 78 years for Americans.
In fact, life expectancy for Nigerians is the lowest in West Africa. This appallingly low figure can be partly attributed to sudden death from heart attacks and stroke, which is usually caused by high cholesterol.
High cholesterol usually has no symptoms; however, it can be detected in blood tests. Many times, the only way to find out is when it is too late.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in your blood. Your body needs some cholesterol to build cells, make hormones, make vitamin D and protect the nerves from damage. Cholesterol is made by your liver, and your body also gets cholesterol directly through certain foods. When the level of cholesterol in your blood becomes higher than normal, it can cause fatty deposits to develop in the blood, making it difficult for the blood to move freely through your arteries. Sometimes, these fatty deposits can break off suddenly, form a clot and cause a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol is made up of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or “good’ cholesterol, and Low-Density Lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol. The good cholesterol helps to protect you from developing heart disease while bad cholesterol contributes to the cause of heart disease. Ideally, you want to have a high amount of HDL cholesterol and a low amount of LDL cholesterol.
In the early 1980’s high cholesterol was very rare. It was prevalent in only 5% of the population. Currently, the global prevalence is 39% while the prevalence in healthy Nigerian adults is about 60%. That is more than half of the adult population, and it is much higher in diabetic and hypertensive patients
High cholesterol can run in the family. If your parents or their close relatives had high cholesterol, chances are you may be at risk for developing high cholesterol. However, the main cause of cholesterol is the result of living an unhealthy lifestyle and poor diet. In Nigeria, we have moved from a highly active agrarian based lifestyle to a sedentary one. Additionally, the rapid urbanization and the introduction of western foods such as bread, milk, sugar, processed foods, sweets, pastries, spaghetti, soft drinks and more, has also contributed to the development of high cholesterol. Finally, the average Nigerian has easier access to high cholesterol containing animal protein such as red meat, dairy and high carbohydrate meals. The other factors that increase your risk of high cholesterol are obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking of alcohol, having diabetes and being of an older age.
The complications of high cholesterol may be quite severe. Having high cholesterol over time can cause your arteries to form plaques and harden in a condition called atherosclerosis. This can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.
High cholesterol can be prevented, treated and even reversed as it is a lifestyle disease. Our healthcare system in Nigeria is still quite underdeveloped and so we as citizens need to take control of our health and try as much as possible to prevent disease. Early detection and treatment are crucial.
Nigerian adults above the age of 17 are encouraged to do a fasting lipid profile test once a year, or more if you already have any of the risk factors.
If high cholesterol is detected, there are certain medications that can help. In addition, eat a diet that is similar to that of our ancestors which consisted of a lot of fruits, vegetables, ancient indigenous grains and less of animal protein.
Engage in moderate exercise at least 30 minutes a day, lose weight, quit smoking and avoid or greatly minimize alcohol.
Start on a supplement that contains high levels of Omega 3’s and Omega 7’s to help improve HDL levels in the blood. Additionally, by doing a 3-week detox of drinking green vegetable smoothies throughout the day, you can make your bad cholesterol to drop quickly to safe levels.
Blend together pumpkin (ugwu) leaves, spinach, broccoli, kale, cucumbers, fruits, and avocadoes and drink it several times a day as your main source of nutrition for three weeks.
I wish you a happy and healthy week!
Managing Director, Quincy Herbals