Understanding CHOLESTEROL


Hello everyone, I am Dr. Keyur Parikh, a senior and leading cardiologist at Marengo CIMS Hospital in Ahmedabad. Today, I want to shed light on an essential aspect of heart health – cholesterol. Let’s explore what cholesterol is, its types, and what levels are considered normal or abnormal based on age groups, with a special focus on the cholesterol issues prevalent in countries like India.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is present in every cell of our bodies. It plays a crucial role in the production of hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help digest fat. However, too much cholesterol in the blood can pose a risk to our heart health.

Types of Cholesterol

LDL Cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoprotein): Often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of our arteries and form plaque, narrowing the blood vessels. This can restrict blood flow to the heart and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

HDL Cholesterol (High-Density Lipoprotein): Known as “good” cholesterol, HDL cholesterol helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries and transport it back to the liver for elimination from the body. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are beneficial for heart health.

Cholesterol Levels by Age Groups

The ideal cholesterol levels vary depending on age and other risk factors. Here’s a general guideline for total cholesterol levels in different age groups:

Children and Adolescents (Ages 2-19):

  • Total Cholesterol: Less than 170 mg/dL
  • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dL

Adults (Ages 20 and above):

  • Total Cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL
  • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dL (For those with heart disease or other risk factors, less than 70 mg/dL may be recommended.)
  • HDL Cholesterol: 40 mg/dL or higher (For men) / 50 mg/dL or higher (For women)

Cholesterol Issues in India

India faces unique challenges related to cholesterol and heart health. A combination of genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices, and dietary habits contribute to high cholesterol levels among Indians.

1. Indian Diet: Traditional Indian diets, while rich in diverse flavors, may also contain high amounts of unhealthy fats, such as ghee, butter, and coconut oil, leading to elevated cholesterol levels.

2. Physical Activity: Sedentary lifestyles and lack of regular exercise contribute to higher LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels.

3. Genetic Factors: Some individuals in India may have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol levels, making them more vulnerable to heart disease.

Understanding cholesterol and its impact on heart health is essential for everyone, especially in countries like India, where heart disease is a significant concern. By adopting heart-healthy dietary choices, engaging in regular physical activity, and seeking medical guidance, we can manage cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Regular checkups with your healthcare provider are crucial for monitoring cholesterol levels and overall heart health. Remember, small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference in safeguarding our hearts and leading a healthier life.


Lowering cholesterol levels is crucial for maintaining heart health and reducing the risk of heart disease in India. Here are some simple and effective ways to lower cholesterol, tailored for people living in India:

1. Choose Heart-Healthy Oils: Opt for healthier cooking oils such as mustard oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil instead of ghee or hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils contain healthier fats that can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Example: When preparing your favorite Indian dishes, use olive oil for sautéing vegetables or making salad dressings. It adds a delightful flavor and is heart-friendly.

2. Incorporate Soluble Fiber: Foods rich in soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Include oats, barley, lentils, and fruits like apples and oranges in your diet.

Example: Start your day with a bowl of warm oatmeal topped with fresh fruits, like apples or bananas, and a sprinkle of nuts for added crunch and taste.

3. Load Up on Vegetables and Fruits: Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables not only provides essential nutrients but also helps in managing cholesterol levels.

Example: Prepare a delicious mixed vegetable curry using a variety of colorful veggies like spinach, carrots, bell peppers, and beans. It’s both nutritious and satisfying.

4. Embrace Heart-Healthy Spices: Certain Indian spices like turmeric, garlic, and fenugreek have cholesterol-lowering properties and are commonly used in Indian cooking.

Example: Add a pinch of turmeric and a few crushed garlic cloves to your dishes to give them a heart-healthy boost.

5. Include Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds are rich in healthy fats, fiber, and plant sterols that can help reduce cholesterol.

Example: Snack on a handful of mixed nuts or sprinkle flaxseeds on your salads and yogurt to add a crunchy and nutritious twist.

6. Moderate Consumption of Dairy and Animal Products: Reduce the intake of full-fat dairy products, butter, and fatty meats as they can increase cholesterol levels.

Example: Opt for low-fat or skimmed milk and lean cuts of meat like chicken or fish when preparing meals.

7. Stay Physically Active: Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, cycling, or dancing, can raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and lower LDL cholesterol.

Example: Engage in activities you enjoy, like dancing to Bollywood music or taking evening walks with family or friends.

8. Limit Processed Foods and Sweets: Processed foods and sweets often contain unhealthy trans fats and sugars, which can raise LDL cholesterol levels.

Example: Instead of packaged snacks, reach for a handful of roasted chickpeas or homemade popcorn for a tasty and healthy treat.

By incorporating these lifestyle changes and making heart-healthy choices, individuals in India can effectively lower their cholesterol levels, promote heart health, and lead a healthier and happier life. As always, consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice and guidance.