Cholesterol is transported in the blood while attached to compounds called lipoproteins. The two main lipoproteins are:
- Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) also referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’ because when in excess, it is responsible for transporting cholesterol to our arteries where it builds up and increases our risk of heart diseases
- High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C) also referred to as ‘good cholesterol’ because it is responsible for carrying cholesterol from the arteries back to the liver thus reducing our risk of heart diseases.
- Triglycerides are Fats that are transported by other lipoproteins and they also increase our risk of heart diseases and pancreatitis if in excess.
Any imbalance in the levels of these lipoproteins and/or fats(triglycerides) in blood is termed as a lipid disorder (dyslipidemia) and it increases our risk of developing heart diseases.
Can physical inactivity cause dyslipidemia?
Physical activity refers to any bodily movement which causes the body to use energy. Exercise is a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has a final or an intermediate objective of improving or maintaining physical fitness.
Physical inactivity is a risk factor for the development of dyslipidemia. The body uses lipids to produce energy during physical exercises. People who exercise tend to have high levels of HDL-C and low concentrations of LDL-C and triglycerides compared to individuals who are leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Lowering LDL-C and triglycerides while increasing HDL-C requires intense consistent exercises. Furthermore, physical activity improves the quality of life by improving mood and quality of life. Individuals who engage in these activities experience low anxiety, stress, and depression. Examples of beneficial exercises include aerobic and resistance training. Increasing the intensity and duration of aerobic exercises and increasing the volume of movement during resistance training through repetitions can improve a patient’s lipid profile.
Is there a link between age, physical activity and dyslipidemia?
Engaging in physical activity provides different degrees of health benefits depending on the age of the participant. For example, engaging in physical activity during childhood and adolescence offers more protection against conditions such as type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia compared to exercising during adulthood. Participating in exercises throughout all the three stages (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood) is even more beneficial. Besides, physical activity during childhood and adolescence reduces the chances of dyslipidemia during adulthood.
Evidence suggests that having a high BMI during childhood and adolescence is associated with a poor lipid profile during adulthood. Those who are active experience a reduction in adipose tissue thereby minimizing obesity and improving the lipid profile. In addition, physical exercise reduces the production of inflammatory compounds by the body. If you are a parent, then it is wise to ensure that your children and adolescents regularly engage in sports. Engaging in similar activities or joining the children during such exercises is highly recommended.
Recommended Exercises for Improving the Lipid Profile
Healthy individuals who want to lower their LDL-C and triglycerides and increase HDL-C concurrently should increase physical activity to more than 30 minutes every day for 5 times/week. The exercises should include prolonged and moderate intensity aerobic exercises combined with low intensity resistance training.
Dyslipidemia patients who are targeting lower LDL-C and triglyceride levels combined with an increase in HDL-C should participate in physical activities for more than 30 minutes everyday 5 times a week. The exercises should comprise of prolonged moderate intensity aerobic exercises combined with moderate to high intensity resistance training.
People who are suffering from dyslipidemia and have problems with mobility can improve their lipid profile by increasing their physical activity as much as possible and progressively increasing their resistance training that should target major muscles. Once they can achieve moderate intensity the exercise should be maintained.
Examples of aerobic exercises include:
- Aerobic dancing
Combining Physical Activity with other Interventions
Combining dietary interventions and exercise is more effective at controlling dyslipidemia and can help with weight loss. Besides, some therapies combine lifestyle intervention and medication. For example, engaging in moderate intensity aerobic exercises combined with resistance training prior to starting an intervention using statin drugs improves dyslipidemia.
A typical diet should be low on saturated and trans fats while the cholesterol should be limited to less than 200 mg per day. It should be rich in polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats. Consuming foods that are fortified with plant phytosterols can also alleviate dyslipidemia. Besides, low carbohydrate and low-fat diets are recommendable. Soluble fiber and plant-based proteins will also improve the lipid profile.