Cholesterol, mainly high cholesterol, has been a debated topic for years (and for good reason).
The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, reveals some interesting facts about cholesterol.
- Those who have high cholesterol are 2 times more at risk for heart disease, which, is the leading cause of death in the United States.
- 71 million American adults, which equates to 33.5% of the population, have a high LDL (bad cholesterol) count.
- Only 1 out of every 3 adults with high cholesterol manages to get it under control.
- Less than 50% of those with high LDL counts seek treatment or incorporate the necessary lifestyle changes required to lower their levels.
So what is cholesterol, LDL, HDL and why does it matter to you?
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol, a wax like substance, is found in all cells of the human body. Good cholesterol is vital for the body to function properly.
The human body makes all the required cholesterol that it needs and uses it to aid in the production of hormones, substances that help you digest food properly and for Vitamin D.
However, cholesterol can also be found in many fatty foods and therefore many people take in way more cholesterol than their body needs. Most end up suffering from a high risk condition known as high cholesterol.
Cholesterol, LDL and HDL
Cholesterol is made up of different building blocks. Two important components are LDL and HDL
- LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. Often it is called “bad cholesterol” because it’s the type that may lead to a buildup in your arteries, potentially leading to heart disease.
- HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and is called “good cholesterol” because it aids the body in dealing with cholesterol.
High Blood Cholesterol
Too much LDL cholesterol in the blood can be quite serious and can lead to cardiovascular disease. One of the problems is that high blood cholesterol frequently does not cause any symptoms by itself, which is why a lot of people are unaware of their condition. In order to detect high cholesterol a blood test is required that can be ordered by your provider.
What Are Some Of The Best Ways to Prevent High Cholesterol?
There are a lot of things you can do to lower and prevent high cholesterol. Some of the most important changes include diet and lifestyle modifications that can prevent high cholesterol altogether.
- If you are obese or overweight then losing excess weight is a great way to prevent and lower high blood cholesterol. Losing anywhere from 5-7% of your bodyweight is enough to see significant change for the better. The best way to lose weight is to focus on foods that are low in calories, such as, fruits and vegetables and by increasing your level of physical activity.
- Another way to prevent high cholesterol is to drink a little bit of red wine when having dinner. Wine helps to increase the levels of HDL cholesterol (the good type) and this in turn helps to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad type). When HDL cholesterol travels in the blood stream then it picks up LDL cholesterol and carries it to your liver where it is excreted from the body.
- Start eating oatmeal for breakfast. According to the Mayo Clinic, the high amount of soluble fiber in oatmeal reduces the amount of cholesterol the body is able to absorb. It is recommended that one consume 25-35 grams of soluble fiber daily to have a positive effect.
- If your goal is to prevent or stop high blood cholesterol (LDL) saturated fat is not your friend – it’s best to keep consumption to a minimum. Many animal products, such as, red meat, cheese and whole milk are the main sources of saturated fats. It is recommended that saturated fats account for only 7% of your daily calorie intake.
- So, if you eat red meat regularly consider replacing it with soy protein products, lean proteins, like chicken and turkey or broiled or baked fish.
- Green tea – it has been found that polyphenols in green tea might have the ability to block cholesterol from forming. It is best to enjoy green tea in pure form, without added sugar or artificial flavoring. Brew it at home and enjoy with mint leaves, lemon and lime juice.
- Regular exercise – one of the most important components to preventing this high risk condition. Aerobics, jogging and walking are all effective workouts to increase the levels of good cholesterol and therefore reduce the bad. 30 minutes a day is enough to have a positive effect. If you are out of shape then you can begin with three 10 minute sessions daily and work your way up to a full 30 minutes.
Cholesterol, while crucial for your health, can also be a threat to health if it is allowed to get to unhealthy levels. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to get tested for it.
Today, testing for cholesterol is done with a blood test, often part of routine testing. If you’re worried about your cholesterol, talk to your provider.
And if you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, then it is really important that you follow what your provider recommends so that you can get your cholesterol under control.
Lowering your cholesterol can reduce your risk of having a heart attack that can lead to premature death, and the need for bypass surgery or angioplasty.
The above are some of the best ways to avoid, in the majority of cases, a completely preventable condition and to ensure a healthy and long life.
Keep in mind that it’s never too late to make a change. Often it only takes minor lifestyle changes to see a positive impact and frequently very quickly.
If you would like to get more detailed information about cholesterol you may want to review information published by the National Cholesterol Education Program.