What is Cholesterol?
A health article about cholesterol from Your Health Online the A to Z directory of dealing with Health Problems & nutritional Self Care Strategies
Cholesterol can be both good and bad, so its important to learn what it actually is, how it affects your health and how to manage your blood-cholesterol levels.
Understanding the facts about cholestrol will help you take better care of your heart so you can live a healthier life, reducing your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Signs & Symptoms
Most people begin to develop cholesterol driven atherosclerosis as children and it’s unusual if you find an adult in the United States who does not have some degree of atherosclerosis.
High-cholesterol levels do not usually produce any symptoms. Most people only discover they have it when they have their blood-cholesterol levels measured as part of a physical check up or blood test.
If there is not enough oxygen carrying blood passing through the narrowed arteries, because of plaque build up, the heart may give you a pain that is called Angina.
The pain usually happens when you exercise because at that time your heart requires more oxygen. Usually it is felt in the chest or the left arm and shoulder, although it can happen without any symptoms at all.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t even aware they have atherosclerosis until they have a heart attack or stroke. It is possible to have up to 80 percent closure of the arteries without ever feeling a single symptom!
A recent study found that men with high cholesterol are twice as likely to be impotent as men whose cholesterol levels are normal or low.
Researchers recorded cholesterol levels of 3,250 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 83. Men with total cholesterol higher than 240 milligrams/dl were twice as likely to have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection than men who cholesterol levels were below 180 milligrams/dl.
Men who had low levels of HDL were also twice as likely to suffer from impotence. The same high-fat diet that narrows arteries and blocks blood flow to your heart also narrows the arteries that carry blood to your penis. Blood has to be able to get to your penis in order for you to have an erection. Take control now and you’ll find yourself improving in this area of your life as well.
What is cholesterol?
Every living being requires a certain amount of fat to exist. Like everything in nature, it only becomes a problem when there is an imbalance.
The processing of fat begins when it gets absorbed in the intestines. From there it heads to the liver. The fat requires a delivery system to the rest of the body to be used immediately but also to be stored in fat cells for future use.
In order for the fat to enter the delivery system, while it is in the liver it is split into two different types of fat, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Once this transformation takes place, the two types of fat (cholesterol and triglycerides) are packed into vehicles for carrying the fat to the fat cells throughout the body using the bloodstream. These vehicles are called lipoproteins.
There are three types of lipoproteins:
1. Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL)
2. Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
3. High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
Under normal circumstances, the bloodstream does a very efficient job of carrying the LDL and HDL Lipoproteins throughout the body.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat like substance that presents itself naturally in cell walls and membranes everywhere in your body. Your body uses cholesterol to produce many hormones. It also uses it to produce vitamin D and the bile acids that help to digest fat.
Where problems arise is when there is an over abundance of cholesterol in your bloodstream. The cholesterol deposited by the LDL leads to a narrowing of the blood vessels.
If this occurs, the excess can be deposited in the arteries of the heart which could result in stroke or heart disease. This is called atherosclerosis. This is why LDL is known as “bad cholesterol.”
HDL usually collects the bad cholesterol and takes it back to the liver. That’s why HDL is known as “good cholesterol.”
Cholesterol is not the only cause of Heart disease, but it is a contributing factor. Here’s how it works.
Cholesterol can only attach to the inner lining of the artery if it has been damaged. Once the lining of the artery is damaged, white blood cells rush to the site followed by colesterol, calcium and cellular debris. The muscle cells around the artery are altered and also accumulate cholesterol.
The fatty streaks in the arteries continue to develop and bulge into the arteries. This cholesterol “bulge” is then covered by a scar that produces a hard coat or shell over the cholesterol and cell mixture. It is this collection of cholesterol that is then covered by a scar that is called “plaque.”
The buildup of plaque narrows the space in the arteries through which blood can flow, decreasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients. This cuts down the supply of blood and oxygen to the tissues that are fed by that blood vessel
The elasticity of the blood vessel is reduced and the arteries’ ability to control Blood Pressure is compromised. If there is not enough oxygen carrying blood passing through the narrowed arteries, the heart may give you a pain that is called Angina.
The pain usually happens when you exercise because at that time your heart requires more oxygen. Usually it is felt in the chest or the left arm and shoulder, although it can happen without any symptoms at all.
Plaque can vary in size as well as shape. All through the coronary arteries you can find many small plaques that cover less than half of an artery opening. Some of these plaques are completely invisible in the tests that doctors use to identify heart disease.
The medical community used to think that the primary concern was the larger plaques. They thought these posed a greater threat because of their size and that they were more likely to cause a complete blockage of the coronary arteries.
While it is true that the larger plaques are more likely to cause angina, it is the smaller plaques that are packed with cholesterol and covered by scars that are more dangerous. They are considered unstable and prone to ruptures or bursting releasing their load of cholesterol into the bloodstream. This causes immediate clotting within the artery. If the blood clot blocks the artery totally, it will stop the blood flow and a heart attack occurs.
What Causes cholesterol?
If you recall, we mentioned that cholesterol can only attach to the inner lining of the artery if it has been damaged. How does that damage occur?
Evidence points to “free radical” damage as being one of the culprits of arterial wall damage. Free radicals are found all around us. They are highly reactive substances like polluted air, radiation, tobacco smoke, herbicides, and naturally within our own bodies as an offshoot of regular metabolic processes.
Free radicals attack and damage cells altering normal cell activity. You see it around you every day causing metal to rust and fruit to spoil. This is why we take anti-oxidants like vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and selenium, to combat the attack of free radicals.
Heredity plays a role in high cholesterol. Your genes can influence your LDL by affecting how fast it is made and removed from your blood. There is one particular form of inherited high cholesterol that will often lead to early heart disease. It is called familial “hypercholesterolemia” and can play a role in 1 of 500 people.
Weight is a factor in determining your LDL. If you have a high LDL level and are overweight, losing those pounds may help you to lower it. Additionally, losing weight also helps to lower triglycerides and raise your HDL.
Age and sex should be considered as well. Women, before menopause, usually have total cholesterol levels that are lower than men. This changes as men and women age. Levels will rise until reaching age 60 to 65. For women, menopause can cause an increase in LDL and a decrease in HDL. After the age of 50 women often have higher total cholesterol levels than men of the same age.
Alcohol plays an odd role in cholesterol levels. It increases HDL but at the same time it does not lower LDL. The medical community does not know for certain whether alcohol reduces the risk of heart disease.
We know that too much alcohol can damage the liver and heart muscle, lead to high blood pressure and raise triglycerides. There are just too many other risks to even consider the use of alcoholic beverages used as a way to prevent heart disease just because it increased the HDL.
Over the long term, stress has shown to raise blood cholesterol levels. The way it does this is by affecting habits. An example is over indulging in fatty foods as a way of consoling themselves when people are under stress.
Fats & Cholesterol
For years we heard that a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet would keep us healthy and
help us lose weight. And many of us jumped on the bandwagon, eliminating fat and
high-cholesterol foods from our diets.
Well, unfortunately, we were doing it all wrong.
Instead of eliminating fat completely, we should have been eliminating the “bad
fats,” the fats associated with obesity and heart disease and eating the “good fats,” the
fats that actually help improve blood cholesterol levels.
It may come as a surprise, but recent studies have shown that the amount of
cholesterol in our food is not strongly linked to our blood cholesterol levels. It’s the types
of fats you eat that affect your blood cholesterol levels.
Bad Fats - There are two fats that you should limit your intake of-saturated and
Saturated Fats - Saturated fats are mostly animal fats. You find them in meat,
whole-milk products, poultry skin, and egg yolks. Coconut oil also has a high amount of
saturated fat. Saturated fats raise both the good and bad blood cholesterol.
Trans Fats - Trans fats are produced through hydrogenation-heating oils in the
presence of oxygen. Many products contain trans fats because the fats help them
maintain a longer shelf life. Margarine also contains a high amount of trans fats. Trans
fats are especially dangerous because they lower the good cholesterol, HDL and raise
the bad cholesterol, LDL.
Unfortunately, most products do not tell you how much trans
fat it contains, but you can find out if it’s in a product by looking at the ingredient list. If
the ingredients contain hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, then it contains
trans fats. Fortunately in 2006, manufacturers will be required to list the amount of trans
fat in their products on the nutrition labels, so it will be easier for you to find.
Good Fats - Some fats actually improve cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated Fats - Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower, corn, and
soybean oils. These oils contain Omega-6, an essential fatty acid. However, most
people get enough Omega-6 in their diet and instead need more Omega-3. Omega-3 is
a fatty acid found in fish and walnuts.
Monounsaturated Fats - Monounsaturated fats are found in canola, peanut,
and olive oils.
Both types of unsaturated fats decrease the bad cholesterol, LDL and increase
the good cholesterol, HDL.
Now, just because the unsaturated fats improve your blood cholesterol levels,
you don’t have the go-ahead to eat all of the olive oil, butter and nuts you want. Fat of
any kind does contain calories, and if you’re trying to lose weight, eat fat in moderation,
and stay away from saturated fats.
Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Nine out of ten Australians have at least one modifiable risk factor, while 26% of men and 21% of women have three or more of the following risk factors:
• High blood pressure
• High blood cholesterol
• Insufficient physical activity
• Excessive alcohol intake
Many people have multiple risk factors for heart disease and the level of risk increases with the number of risk factors. By reducing these risk factors you can largely prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease.
It is therefore, very important to know what your cholesterol levels are and to keep them at a healthy level before you have any problems.
Why high blood cholesterol levels are dangerous:
Cholesterol, like fat, cannot move around the bloodstream on its own because it does not mix with water. The bloodstream carries cholesterol in particles called lipoproteins that are like blood-borne cargo trucks delivering cholesterol to various body tissues to be used, stored or excreted.
But too much of this circulating cholesterol can injure arteries, especially the coronary ones that supply the heart. This leads to accumulation of cholesterol-laden “plaque” in vessel linings, a condition called atherosclerosis.
When blood flow to the heart is impeded, the heart muscle becomes starved for oxygen, causing chest pain (angina). If a blood clot completely obstructs a coronary artery affected by atherosclerosis, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or death can occur.
Australians at risk:
Cardiovascular disease is still Australia’s greatest health problem affecting over 3,6 million Australians, so it touches most families. One Australian dies every ten minutes of heart disease, stroke or blood vessel disease. According to the National Heart Foundation more than six million adults aged 25 and over have high blood cholesterol levels of 5.5 mmol/L or more in Australia.
On its own, an elevated blood cholesterol level is not necessarily a problem, but coupled with one or more other risk factors for heart disease, it is often the straw that breaks the camels back.
American Heart Association Recommendations
The American Heart Association recommends that you eat a variety of foods
from the different food groups.
Meat, Poultry, Fish - You should consume no more than 6 ounces of meat,
poultry, and fish per day. Lean cuts of poultry and fish have fewer calories than fatty red
meat, but you can find lean cuts of red meat in your supermarket.
Breads, Cereals, Starches - This food group includes bread, cereal, pasta, rice,
and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. You can have six servings from this food
group a day. A serving size is 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of cereal, and 1cup of rice, pasta,
or ¼ to ½ cup of starchy veggies. So, if you eat Remember here, that whole grain is
best. When you can, choose whole-grain bread, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta
instead of their white counterparts that have been stripped of nutrients and fiber.
Vegetables and Fruits - Fruits and vegetables are essential parts of your diet
because they contain a variety of vitamins and nutrients. You can have five or more
servings a day of fruits and vegetables. A serving size is ½ cup to 1 cup of cooked and
raw vegetables, ½ cup of fruit juice, or one medium piece of fruit. Aim to choose a
variety of colors in your diet because they have different vitamins and minerals. Let’s
examine the colors you should include in your diet every day.
Red - Red fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that help keep your heart and
urinary tract healthy. They also help with your memory and lower your risk of some
cancers. When it comes to red, choose from apples, cherries, strawberries, tomatoes,
red peppers, and radishes, to name a few.
Yellow/Orange - Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants
that keep your heart, vision, and immune system healthy. Some yellow and orange
fruits and veggies include apricots, lemons, peaches, cantaloupe, yellow squash,
carrots, and sweet potatoes.
Green - Green fruits and vegetables help lower your risk of some cancers and
keep your bones and teeth strong. Choose foods like green grapes, broccoli, avocados,
spinach, green apples, and limes.
Blue/Purple - Blue and purple fruits and vegetables lower the risk of some
cancers and keep your urinary tract healthy. They also help maintain your memory
function. Some delicious blue and purple foods are blackberries, blueberries, raisins,
plums, eggplant, and purple cabbage.
White - White foods promote your heart health, and if you already have healthy
cholesterol, they’ll help maintain those levels. Bananas, pears, cauliflower, mushrooms,
and garlic are tasty options you can fit into your meal plan.
Milk Products - If you love dairy products, the good news is that you can still eat
them and lose weight. However, choose low-fat or fat-free products. They contain the
same vitamins and minerals, taste good, and lower your cholesterol all at the same
time. Adults aged 19-50 should have three servings of milk products per day. A serving
of dairy is 1 cup of fat-free or low-fat milk, 1 cup of fat-free or low-fat yogurt, 1 ounce of
low-fat cheese (stay away from fat-free cheeses-they have too much sodium) or a ½
cup of low-fat cottage cheese.
Fats - You should have no more than five servings of fats a day in the form of oil,
nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, and mayonnaise. Fat servings include one teaspoon of
oil, three teaspoons of nuts or seeds, 5-10 olives, 1/8 of an avocado and two teaspoons
of mayonnaise. If you love the taste of butter on your vegetables, use a fat-free
imitation butter spray. It really doesn’t taste that much different.
When to seek Medical Advice:
The good news is that cholesterol can be brought under control by changes in the lifestyle – such as diet, losing weight and an exercise program. But some risk factors cannot be controlled.
These include age (45 years or older for men and 55 years or older for women) and family history of early heart disease (father or brother stricken before age 55; mother or sister stricken before age 65).
Consult your doctor for specific advice if you believe you are in a high risk category. In severe cases your doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering drugs if the condition cannot be controlled by lifestyle changes.
Diagnosing cholesterol levels require a simple blood test to determine the levels of LDL and HDL. Cholesterol tests can be tricky, however. Simple screening that is done without “fasting,” measures only the total cholesterol and the HDL, the “good” cholesterol. It will give you a ballpark figure, but far from accurate.
The complete test is called a “lipid profile,” and even that can vary from test to test. This test will measure total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides.
For truly accurate numbers, you should not eat, or drink anything other than water for 12 hours before testing. Vigorous exercise should be avoided for 24 hours before testing and you need to make certain that whoever tests you is made aware of any medications you may be taking as they will also affect the results.
Okay, now that you have accurate numbers, what do they mean? Before we discuss the numbers and their meanings, we need to clarify some terminology.
Dietary cholesterol means the cholesterol that you eat. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 300 milligram per day. Most food labels in the United States list cholesterol. The three terms, blood cholesterol, serum cholesterol and total cholesterol mean the same thing – the total cholesterol in your body. This is what is measured when you have a cholesterol test.
Your test results will come in with three numbers:
1. HDL Cholesterol
2. LDL Cholesterol
3. Total Cholesterol
For total cholesterol the National Cholesterol Education Program classifies levels below 200 milligrams/dl (milligrams per deciliter) as “desirable.” A level between 200 and 239 is “borderline high.” Anything over 240 is “high.”
Triglyceride levels over 400 milligrams/dl are considered “high” and levels over 1,000 milligrams/dl are considered “very high.”
For LDL, the desirable level is less than 130 milligrams/dl. The “borderline high” level is 130 to 159. the “high risk” level is 160 and above.
Higher is better for HDL. For HDL, the numbers are lower because there is less HDL in the blood. Anything lower than 35 milligrams/dl is considered “high risk.” If your HDL is very high, say over 60, your risk of heart disease is reduced.
The LDL, however, is the “bad” cholesterol and the most important factor in predicting heart attack.
For LDL, lower is better preferably less than 160. It’s best to keep the level around 130.
Cholesterol in Adolescents
Children and adolescents with normal cholesterol level is a thing of the past. Because of the changing lifestyle and junk food trend, even they have a high risk to develop high levels of cholesterol which also increases the risk of developing heart diseases which can affect the blood vessels and the coronary arteries.
The main cause of this change is obesity, junk food high in fat, fast food diets, sedentary lifestyle and high cholesterol level in family history. Keeping the blood cholesterol levels at normal is a good way of avoiding high blood pressure and coronary artery diseases.
The blood cholesterol level can vary from individual to individual. Healthy levels of LDL is less than one hundred and thirty milligrams, HDL is greater than thirty five milligrams. If the HDL is less than thirty five milligrams then the adolescent is at a higher risk of developing heart diseases. And LDL more than one hundred and thirty milligrams is dangerous.
But a high level of LDL cholesterol is a problem in many citizens of America. And there is an expected increase in number, the figure is unknown, of adolescents who have a family history of high cholesterol levels.
An adolescent or a child who has a parent having high levels of blood cholesterol and family history of heart diseases at an early age, should take cholesterol test from the age of two. Adolescents who are obese also should have lipid test along with cholesterol test. The lipid test shows levels of kinds of fats in blood such as triglycerides, LDL and HDL.
Treatment/Therapy: Cholesterol Medications
Your doctor may decide that you need help in controlling your cholesterol if you are not able to reduce it using natural treatments.
Even if your doctor prescribes any of these medications, you must still follow through with healthy lifestyle treatments that we will discuss further on.
What are they and how do they work? Statins repress the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase. This enzyme controls the rate that cholesterol produces itself in the body. These drugs can lower cholesterol from 20 to 60%. They slow the production while they increase the liver’s ability to withdraw LDL. Statins lower the LDL levels better than any other type of drug.
They can also produce a modest increase of HDL while decreasing total cholesterol and triglycerides. Positive results are usually seen after just 4 to 6 weeks of beginning the medication.
Overall statins are proven for lowering heart attack risks, strokes and other coronary diseases related to high cholesterol levels. You should not take statins if:
You are allergic to statins themselves or their ingredients
You are pregnant or breastfeeding
You have liver disease
You consume excessive amounts of alcohol
Have a history of myopathy
Have renal failure
Brand names of statins that you might recognize are Lipitor, Lescol, Mevacor, Altocor, Pravahol, Zocor and Crestor.
There are some drug and/or food interactions that you should be aware of. More than one quart of grapefruit juice per day can decrease the ability of the liver to process some statins. More importantly there may be other medications that can interact and cause serious side effects.
It’s important to let your doctor know about any other medication you are taking, whether prescription or non-prescription including vitamins, herbal supplements, medication for the immune system, other cholesterols drugs, medication for infections, birth control pills, medication for heart failure, HIV or AIDs, or Coumadin.
Side effects from statins are rare. If you experience muscle soreness, pain, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain, discolored urine, stop taking the medication and contact your doctor immediately.
Bile Acid Sequestrants
Bile acid sequestrants bind with bile acids that contain cholesterol in the intestines and are then eliminated in the stool. They are proven to reduce LDL by 10 to 20%. Small doses produce decent reductions in LDL. They are sometimes prescribed along with a statin to enhance reduction. When combined, their effects are counted together and lower LDL by more than 40%. They do not lower triglycerides.
People who are allergic to bile acid sequestrants should not take this medication nor should anyone who has a medical history of bile obstruction.
There may be interactions with other drugs so make certain your doctor has a complete list of all prescribed and non-prescribed medications you are taking.
Bile acid sequestrants do not become absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. It has been used for 30+ years and is considered safe for long term use.
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors
A newer drug class, Zetia is a cholesterol absorption inhibitor that was approved in 2002 by the FDA. By itself it reduces LDL by 18 to 20%/ It does this by decreasing absorption of cholesterol and other drugs within this class also mildly lower triglycerides.
Very useful for prescribing to people who cannot take statins or as another drug that can be taken if those who take statins have side effects if the statin dose is increased. Adding a cholesterol inhibitor to a statin increased the lowering effect by a 2 to 3 fold factor.
There may be interactions with other drugs so make certain your doctor has a complete list of all prescribed and non-prescribed medications you are taking.
Nicotinic Acid Agents
Niacin, Niacor and Slo-Niacin are common names for nicotinic acid agents.
Nicotinic acid, which is also called niacin, is a water soluble vitamin B. It improves levels of all lipoproteins when the doses are given far above the vitamin requirement.
Nicotinic acid reduces total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides at the same time raising HDL. It reduces LDL by 10 to 20%, triglycerides by 20 to 50% and raises HDL by 15 to 35%. Nicotinamide is a niacin by product after the body breaks it down. Nicotinamide has no effect in lowering cholesterol and should not be used in place of nicotinic acid.
Individuals who are allergic to nicotinic acid, and those who have liver disease, active peptic ulcer, or arterial bleeding, should not use nicotinic acid agents.
There are two types of nicotinic acid. One for immediate release and one for extended release. Immediate release is inexpensive and widely available without a prescription. However, because of potential side effects it must not be used for lowering cholesterol without being monitored by a doctor.
Niacin that is extended release is often tolerated better than crystalline niacin. But has a greater chance of causing damage to the liver.
If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, the results may be increased while taking niacin. You should have a system available to monitor your blood pressure when beginning a new niacin regimen.
Again, there may be side effects when mixed with other medications or foods. Discuss with your doctor and make certain you make him aware of all medications prescribed or otherwise.
Primary effectiveness is lowering triglycerides. There is a lesser effect in increasing HDL levels.
Some serious side effects may occur so be sure and discuss these with your doctor. If you are allergic to fibrates or have liver disease or kidney disease, you should not take these agents.
High cholesterol is very common in adults, and can lead to heart disease, strokes and other serious health problems.
You should have your cholesterol level checked by a doctor every year. The levels will indicate if you need to take action to lower your cholesterol.
Herbal remedies can be very helpful in lowering cholesterol, but do not substitute herbal remedies for prescription medication.
If you are currently under a doctor’s care for high cholesterol, check with him before making any changes.
Self Care strategies for Living with cholesterol
Unfortunately, the medical community is quick to prescribe medication to lower cholesterol but they are far less likely to suggest herbal or homeopathic measures as the first step in dealing with health problems.
In many cases no medications can do a better job than treating your high cholesterol naturally. And, if you are one of those lucky people who do not have cholesterol concerns, you may want to take steps to keep it that way!
Reduce fat in your diet
One of the best plans is covered previously in our chart on saturated fat. But there is more you can do. Buy the leanest cuts of meat you can find.
Regularly substitute poultry (without the skin) and fish for red meat. Both are lower in saturated fat. Switch to low fat cottage cheese and yogurt, reduced fat hard cheeses and skim or 1 percent milk.
Eat no more than four egg yolks a week
Many people don’t have to worry about eating cholesterol. Normal bodies adjust to increased intake by cutting back on regular product. However, since one third of Americans are cholesterol responders their blood cholesterol does go up when they eat cholesterol.
You probably don’t know if you fall into this category so play it safe. Eat no more than four egg yolks a week. An average egg yolk contains 213 milligrams of cholesterol!
Eliminate fried foods
• Buying low fat is just the beginning. You need to institute low fat cooking methods to keep the cholesterol from sneaking back in to your diet.
• Remove fatty skin from chicken and turkey.
• Don’t fry foods. Roast, bake, broil, grill or poach them instead.
• Use fat free marinades or basting with liquids like wine, tomato or lemon juice.
• Use olive or canola oils for sautéing or baking. Both are very low in saturated fat.
• Use diet, tub or squeeze margarines instead of regular. Watch for the term “hydrogenated,” which means some of the fat is saturated.
Eat vegetables and complex carbohydrates
• Lowest fat foods of all are vegetables, fruits, grains (rice, barley and pasta), beans and legumes. Try substituting some of these for meat and high fat dairy products.
• Don’t douse your pasta with butter or your potato with sour cream.
• Use tomato base sauces instead of cream base.
• Use lemon juice, low sodium soy sauce or herbs to season vegetables.
• Make chili with extra beans and seasonings while leaving out the meat.
Achieve And Maintain A Healthy Body Weight
If you are overweight, the chances are almost 100% that you have a problem with high cholesterol. You can lower your LDL and elevate your HDL just by losing weight .
Eat fewer fatty foods and more fruits, vegetables, grains and beans and it’s a pretty good bet that you will slowly but surely lose weight.
The more you weigh, the more your body stores fat and cholesterol. Eat more fruits, vegetables and soy products, more wholegrain breads and cereals, more seafood (Omega-3 fats are very healthy.) And choose low-fat dairy products and lean meat.
Include your family
Eating habits carry through to adulthood. Get your children on a healthy eating pattern early. Don’t begin until they are at least 2 years of age, however. Babies need extra fat calories to develop properly.
Snack all you want
Yep, that’s what we wrote. Snack several times a day on low fat foods. Yogurt, fruit, vegetables, bagels and whole grain breads and cereals are excellent for snacking. In fact, there is evidence that points to lower cholesterol levels in people who eat several small meals a day.
Eating often can keep hormones like insulin from rising and signaling your body to make more cholesterol. Make certain that your total intake of calories doesn’t go up when you eat more often.
Nuts to you!
Do you like nuts? If you do, sprinkle a few on your cereal, bake them into muffins or pancakes or add them to casseroles or stir-fries. Walnuts and almonds are especially good. Eating about three ounces of walnuts a day is shown to decrease blood cholesterol levels by 10% more than an already low fat, low cholesterol diet.
Walnuts are high in fat, but it is mostly polyunsaturated fat, which is the kind that lowers cholesterol. Another study shows that about three ounces of almonds which are rich in monounsaturated fat, lowers LDL by 9%!
Aha! All you chocoholics rejoice! Studies indicate that the fat in chocolate is stearic acid and has no effect on cholesterol levels. The chocolate does not increase LDL and could raise HDL a wee bit. But chocolate is still high in fat and calories so don’t go overboard.
Drink fruit juices
You may have read about the low rate of heart disease in France. It led researchers to believe that the French habit of drinking red wine with meals contributes to this. Apparently some of the non-alcoholic ingredients in red wine raises HDL and suppresses the body from producing LDL.
Purple grape juice works the same way. It will work like red wine to lower the fat level in your blood. The LDL lowering effect of red wine and grape juice comes from a compound that grapes produce normally to resist mold. The darker the grape juice, the better.
Grapefruit juice does the same thing and it may also help your body get rid of that nasty plaque that we discussed earlier.
Cholesterol lowering effects of garlic have been demonstrated repeatedly in people with normal and high cholesterol. Eat all the garlic you can. It also seems to raise the HDL levels as well. If you are worried about the odor, take the tablets instead. They have proven to be nearly as effective as the cooked or raw cloves.
Take niacin – carefully
We discussed niacin earlier. Remember as one of the B vitamins, it is proven effective for lowering LDL and raising HDL. It is also one of the cheapest drugs available for lowering cholesterol. But, without medical supervision it may not be totally safe. A dose high enough to lower cholesterol can cause extremely high blood sugar or liver damage.
Take vitamin E
Studies indicate that vitamin E may have a positive impact on lowering cholesterol when taken in fairly large quantities – up to 800 IU per day. This is more than you can get from your diet alone. Larger amounts do not seem to cause any harm.
Further studies showed that even amounts of just 25 IU per day helps in preventing LDL from sticking to blood vessel walls. That amount is only slightly higher than the recommended daily amount (RDA) of 12 to 15 IU. It’s interesting to note that even that small amount has an impact on preventing that hardening of the arteries.
One study indicates that when 56 people took a calcium carbonate supplement, their total cholesterol went down 4 percent and their HDL increased 4 percent. That was taking a dosage of 400 milligrams of calcium three times a day with no harmful effects reported. That does refer to calcium carbonate.
Take a multivitamin
While you are building your calcium and vitamin E intake, remember the old standby, vitamin C. It is the number one immune system booster and also drives up HDL. A study of people who took more than 60 milligrams of vitamin C per day (60 milligrams is the RDA) had highest LDL levels.
Fill up on fiber
Remember several years back when oat bran was the latest craze for lowering cholesterol? Later studies arrived at inconsistent results, but the medical community do agree that soluble fiber, the kind found in oat bran, does help lower LDL and raise HDL.
As little as three grams per day of fiber from oat bran or oatmeal can be effective. There are 7.2 grams of soluble fiber per 100 grams of dry oat bran and five grams of soluble fiber per 100 grams of dry oatmeal. There are other sources of fiber as well such as barley, beans, peas and many other vegetables.
Corn fiber is also good for reducing LDL, lowering it by as much as 5 percent in a recent study. Researchers used 20 grams of corn fiber a day. That would be a bit difficult for the average user when you take into account that one serving of corn has three grams of corn fiber.
But, every little bit does make a difference. Pectin, which is found in fruits like apples and prunes, reduces cholesterol even better than oat bran, as does psyllium which is the fiber you find in many breakfast cereals and bulk laxatives.
Smoking promotes the development of atherosclerosis. Tobacco smoke is actually more damaging to the heart than the lungs. Smokers have a higher chance of having a heart attack (three times greater than nonsmokers) and a greater risk of dying of the attack (twenty one times greater than nonsmokers.)
Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide, which is uniquely damaging to the heart. Not only does it reduce the amount of oxygen the heart receives, it also actually damages the cells of the heart, rendering them less able to produce energy and thereby weakening the heart.
In addition to the dangers of carbon monoxide, there’s the danger of the nicotine. Nicotine interferes with the electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat. When the blood flow is compromised, the heart can beat in a fast, uncontrolled, irregular beats that actually cause a heart attack.
If you smoke, reducing the risks of atherosclerosis is yet another reason to stop. Even if you have smoked for years, if you stop smoking now you can still immediately help combat the development of atherosclerosis.
Reduce sugar intake
Many people don’t realize that sugar affects cholesterol and definitely affects triglycerides. Sugar stimulates insulin production, which in turn increases triglycerides.
Men in particular, seem to be sensitive to this effect from sugar. The mineral chromium which helps to stabilize blood sugar, can also raise the level of HDL. 100 mcg of chromium three times daily can help to improve your cholesterol levels.
The jury is still out and the different schools of thought are still at odds regarding the benefit or lack of benefit to consuming alcohol. This suggestion has nothing to do with our previous discuss on red wine. A moderate amount may be helpful.
The problem is that to one person a moderate amount might be a glass of wine with their meal, while to another it might be a half bottle of Scotch! Anything above the arbitrary “moderate” amount elevates serum cholesterol triglycerides and your uric acid levels as well as potentially increasing blood pressure all of which promote heart disease. So, the best bet would be to eliminate alcohol totally.
People who drink large amounts of caffeine (more than 6 cups a day) are far more prone to elevated cholesterol. That connection does not hold for tea drinkers. Limit your coffee intake to no more than one cup a day and eliminate caffeinated sodas entirely.
Does Physical Activity Affect Cholesterol?
Regular physical activity increases HDL cholesterol in some people. Higher HDL cholesterol is linked with a lower risk of heart disease. Physical activity can also help control weight, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Aerobic physical activity raises your heart and breathing rates. Regular moderate to intense physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging and swimming also condition your heart and lungs.
There is positive evidence that exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol. Both aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling and cross country skiing and strength training like lifting weights or using weight machines all promote the improvement of cholesterol levels.
An analysis of 11 studies on weight training showed that this exercise lowered LDL by 13 percent and raised HDL by 5 percent. If you lift weights, use light to moderate weights and do many repetitions.
Tips For Eating Out
You can eat out and eat healthy too. Many restaurants offer delicious low-fat, low cholesterol meals. Eating less fat (especially less saturated fat) and less cholesterol is important for your health. Avoid fried, basted, braised, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed, stewed or stuffed foods that are high in fat.
Instead, look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted foods. If you’re not sure about a certain dish, ask your server how its prepared.
Even if dishes low in saturated fats and cholesterol aren’t on the menu, you may still be able to get a healthy meal, because any restaurants will prepare foods to order.
If you’re not sure about a particular restaurant, phone before you go. Steer clear of high-sodium foods that include those that are pickled, in cocktail sauce, smoked, in broth or au jus, in a tomato base, or in soy or teriyaki sauce.
Diet change strategies:
Blood Cholesterol Vs. Dietary Cholesterol
It may surprise you to know that our bodies make all the cholesterol we need. When your doctor takes a blood test to measure your cholesterol level, the doctor is actually measuring the amount of circulating cholesterol in your blood, or your blood cholesterol level.
About 85% of your blood cholesterol level is endogenous, which means it is produced by your body. The other 15% or so comes from an external source – your diet.
Remember when the “low-fat” mantra began? We all jumped in with both feet and some of us still live on low fat foods, like having a baked potato but no butter or sour cream. Maybe you eat pasta, veggies and fat free desserts. So how come you still gain weight?
Good question. Researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics studied the eating habits of 8.260 adult Americans between 1988 and 1991. They found that Americans have significantly reduced their fat intake but still packed on extra pounds in recent years.
In fact, a national health and nutrition survey of over 8,000 American adults concludes that one third of the population is overweight.
The answer is very simple and right in front of us. So many of us jumped on the low fat diet and assumed that if it’s low fat it can’t make us fat. Right? Wrong. We were so involved with the low fat concept that we forgot to count calories!
If you are eating more calories that your body needs, whether from fat or carbohydrates, the body will store them as fat. Period. According to an National Institutes of Health study, by 1990 the average American was consuming hundreds more calories a day than he was consuming 10 years before.
There are researchers who believe that eating small amounts of fat can keep you from overindulging on total calories. Ohio State University nutrition scientist John Allred points out that dietary fat causes our bodies to produce a hormone that tells our intestines to slow down the emptying process. We feel full and are less likely to overeat.
Add a little bit of peanut butter to your piece of fruit and it can help to keep you from a binge later on.
Here is another trap to avoid. Reducing fat might not be as smart as it sounds. Tufts University scientists recently put 11 middle-aged men and women volunteers on a variety of average reduced and low fat diets.
The results were astounding. Very low fat diets which provided only 15 percent of fat from calories did have a positive effect on blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. By the way, that diet is so strict there is no way it could be duplicated in real life. But a reduced fat diet, which is more realistic, only affected those levels if accompanied by weight loss.
Not only that, they concluded that cutting fat without losing weight actually increased triglyceride levels and decreased HDL! So while excess fat is not healthy, it isn’t a dirty word either. Without some fat in our diets, our bodies could not make nerve cells and hormones or absorb fat soluble vitamins.
If obesity is one of your high cholesterol causes, try losing a pound a week with a 500 calorie solution. No, we aren’t going to ask you to only eat 500 calories a week!
What you can do is easily lose a pound a week just by cutting 500 calories a day out of your diet. You can easily burn 250 calories just be spending about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, like bicycling, dancing or just walking. To get rid of the other 250 try cutting out mayonnaise, doughnuts and alcohol.
The typical American diet consists of fatty meats, processed cold cuts, dairy products and fried foods. As if that weren’t enough, throw in commercially baked breads, roles, cakes, chips and cookies. This is a surefire path to high cholesterol.
Oddly, ingesting cholesterol will not raise the blood cholesterol nearly as much as eating a type of fat called “saturated fat.” Like cholesterol, saturated fat is primarily found in animal products like cheese, butter, cream, whole milk, ice cream, lard and marbled meats.
Don’t believe that if you just change to vegetable oil you can eliminate the problem. Some vegetable oils are also high in saturated fat. Palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter are also very high in saturated fat. Unfortunately, these are also most often used in commercially baked goods, coffee creams and nondairy whipped toppings, so make sure you read labels.
Vitamin & Nutrient Associations
Along with getting plenty of fiber there are foods that will help in promoting the lowering of cholesterol as well as herbs that can further reduce cholesterol.
Foods containing pectin are advantageous to lowering cholesterol levels. Carrots, apples and the white layer inside of citrus rinds are particularly beneficial.
Artichoke – A substance in artichoke, cynarin, is known to help the body block absorption of cholesterol. It also assists the liver in breaking down toxins. Take up to 3,000-milligrams per day with meals.
Avocado, which is very high in fat, has unexpectedly become a cholesterol reducer. A study of women who were given a choice of a high monounsaturated fats (olive oil) along with avocado diet or a complex carbohydrate consisting of starches and sugars reported interesting results. In six weeks, the former group on the olive oil and avocado diet showed an 8.2 percent reduction in cholesterol.
Beans are high in fiber and low in cholesterol. What more could you ask for! A cup and a half of beans, or the amount in a bowl of soup, can lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 19 percent!
Cayenne pepper (Capsicum minimum) and other plants that contain the phenolic compound capsaicin have a well demonstrated effect in lowering blood cholesterol levels, as does the widely used spice Fenugreek.
Caraway seed is another aromatic spice with demonstrable cholesterol lowering properties.
Garlic Long known for its medicinal powers, garlic is helpful in inhibiting the production of cholesterol in the body. Use it liberally in your diet. Not only will it help to lower your cholesterol it is also credited with lowering blood pressure. Be sure you include generous amounts of garlic as well as onions in your daily diet.
Guggul – An ancient Indian medicine, guggul is known to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing the HDL, or good cholesterol. Take 25-milligrams three times per day, with meals. It will take up to several months to see any results from taking this supplement.
A whole range of Asian herbal remedies new to western medicine are proving to be valuable in this field.
One of the most powerful products that assist in the management of coronary heart disease in a natural way is Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. This is a fish oil product.
The science that led to the discovery of the value of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
was done by a doctor named George Piggot in the 1970’s. He did a study of Greenland Eskimos. He took a large trail group and separated them in half. One have stayed on their traditional diet. The other half adopted a western diet. After 6 months the half on the western diet were showing onset signs of all the cardiovascular problems the west experiences.
Coronary heart disease problems that could include increased blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, build up of plaque on their arteries. Dr Piggot then separated the group on the western diet and put half back on their traditional diet and left half on the western diet.
Three months later the group on the western diet continued to show increasing problems but the half returned to the traditional diet had clear up all of the onset problems. Further study brought the finding that the answer was deep sea, cold water, fish eaten raw, three times a day.
It was a tremendous discovery but when he returned to America there was interest in his findings but little interest in using raw fish.
The answer was to woek with a leading nutrition company to develop a fish oil caspule that contained oil from deep sea, cold water fish extracted without depleting the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids that it contains.
This is the beginning of general use of Omega 3 products.
Omega 3 is reported to strip plaque from the arteries hence reducing the need for angioplasty, and even bypass and other heart related operations. This leads to reduced coronary heart disease and much less stress on the heart.
If you are looking for health improvements in your own coronary heart disease, it would seem like these products may provide a safe and natural self care strategy for you too
Further reading through our articles on health issues will give you a body of information that will help you decide what options you have to deal with the underlying causes of your cholesterol problem through giving your body the nutrition products that will assist you body to heal from the inside out. Are you caught in a natural energy shortage?
We wish you well in your search for solutions to this problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.
More Resources available about cholesterol :
Cholesterol and Heart Disease
For many, the word cholesterol is nothing more than a bad medical term. We know that we are supposed to lower our cholesterol, and we even know that it depends on what we eat, but many people do not know the risks associated with high cholesterol and why it is important to prevent high cholesterol. Simply put, if you have high cholesterol, you put yourself at a high risk for having a heart attack.
(To read the rest of this article click on the Title above here.)
Angina is a heavy, tight squeezing pain in the chest caused by insufficient oxygen supply to the heart (low blood flow to the heart). It generally occurs when the heart is working hard and requires more oxygen: during exercise, at times of stress, in extremes of temperature, soon after a meal. Typically the pain develops at the same point in daily activity: on stairs climbing to the office, at a certain point in the daily walk, etc.
Perhaps one of the most common problems human beings face today in terms of their biology is that of blood pressure. The pressure exerted by blood pumping through a human body can change rapidly due to so many different reasons.
Thus, it has become commonplace for medical practitioners to check a patient's blood pressure as one of the first tests when a problem occurs.
Free Report Reveals the “ABC’s of Heart Disease” See how easy it is Dealing with Coronary Disease for your Health Success
Free Health Book.
If you have heart disease or are at risk, learn all you can about how the heart works and why heart disease occurs.
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The term coronary heart disease covers a group of clinical syndromes arising particularly from
failure of the coronary arteries to supply sufficient blood to the heart. They include angina
peactoris, coronary thrombosis or heart attack and sudden death without infarction.
There has been a marked increase in the incidence of heart disease in recent years. Heart
attacks have become the number one killer in Western countries. The disease affects people of all ages and both sexes, although it is
more common in men than in women, especially among those aged 40-60 years.
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Cholesterol: What You Need to Know
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What are symptoms of heart disease?
Fainting—Is it really Harmless?
Cardiac syncope, or fainting that is cause by a heart condition, is extremely serious, as it could be fatal if gone unchecked.
In some cases, you simply do faint because of heat, nerves, fever, or other things. However, if you faint for what seems to be no reason at all, see a doctor right away.
(To read rest of article click on the Title above here.)
Heart Disease and Women: Not Just for Men
In the past it was thought that the greatest risk for heart disease lied with men and not with women. However, in recent years it has come to be known that women, in fact, are at a huge risk for heart disease. Heart disease is actually one of the biggest causes for death among adult women.
This is partly genetic, remember. Most of the people who have heart disease have a genetic disposition towards it. However, this means that even those that have a genetic disposition have a chance to get around it, and not develop heart disease.
(To read rest of this coronary heart disease article click on the Title above here.)
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