I. CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
Cholesterol levels should be measured at least once every five years in everyone over age 20. The screening test that is usually performed is a blood test called a lipid profile. Experts recommend that men ages 35 and older and women ages 45 and older be more frequently screened for lipid disorders. Cholesterol is a fatty substance circulating in our bloodstream which is normally synthesized by the liver. Although cholesterol is naturally produced in our bodies by our liver, too much of it contributes for developing cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease leads to greater risks of having strokes and heart attacks. While there have been major advances in medicines and treatments for cardiovascular disease, it is still the number one cause of death among men and women today. The lipoprotein profile includes:
- Total cholesterol
- LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called “bad” cholesterol)
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called “good” cholesterol)
- Triglycerides (fats carried in the blood from the food we eat. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.)
Results of your blood test will come in the forms of numbers. Here is how to interpret your cholesterol numbers.
2. HIGH CHOLESTEROL
HDL means High Density Lipoprotein. High cholesterol levels is the single most important risk factor of developing atherosclerosis, a health condition in which cholesterol builds up in the arterial walls and forms bulky plaques that hamper the flow of blood until a clot eventually forms that obstructs an artery and leads to either a heart attack or stroke. People do not develop high cholesterol levels overnight. High levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream builds up over time due to two major factors which are an individual’s genetic makeup and his or her lifestyle choices; or a mix of both. High cholesterol levels can be fatal. Regular exercise is only a small part of staying healthy and fit. The biggest part of living healthy is in our daily diets, too much fat and cholesterol. High cholesterol, according to The World Health Organization, is directly linked to about 20% of all strokes and about 50% of all heart attacks that occur. The best way to reduce HDL is to seriously decide on a lifestyle change. It is important to make the decision early enough before high cholesterol level puts one at risk of developing other health issues. We all have a certain level of this fatty substance circulating in our blood stream; however, excessive levels of it can accumulate on the walls of our arteries. This leads to arteriosclerosis which is the hardening of the arteries. Arteriosclerosis makes normal flexible tissues brittle causing greater risk of developing a blood clots if arteriosclerosis breaks away. This is another high risk factor due to high cholesterol. One danger that stems from a blood clot is that it can become lodge in an artery and completely choke off blood supply. This means that if blood cells don’t receive the necessary nutrients and oxygen they need, they will begin to die. If this happens to develop in a blood clot in the brain and blood flow is blocked, stroke occurs. And if the clot is in the coronary arteries, heart attack occurs. The higher the cholesterol, the higher the level of heart and blood vessel disease. Making a conscious effort to change your lifestyle will prevent these life threatening illnesses developing. To be able to achieve and maintain a healthy cholesterol level and thereby reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, it is important to reduce the level of LDL “bad” cholesterol and also ways to increase the level of HDL “good” cholesterol.
Considering that diet and genetic factors are the two main reasons for high cholesterol levels. Cholesterol medication only becomes necessary when diet and lifestyle modifications do not bring cholesterol level into a healthy range through:
- Exercising Regularly
- Quitting Smoking
- Making Better Dietary Fat Choices
- Eating More Fiber
- Reducing Carbohydrate Intake
- Reducing Stress Levels
- Using Cholesterol Medications
3. LDL CHOLESTEROL
LDL cholesterol is Low Density Lipoprotein also called ‘bad cholesterol’. It carries the highest amount of cholesterol or steroid lipid in the blood and causes accumulation of fatty deposits of cholesterol in the artery walls that feed the heart and brain. This leads to many heart diseases and strokes. For a healthy person the safe LDL cholesterol level is 160mg/dl. However, if you have a history of heart disease and diabetes, you must concentrate in lowering your LDL levels. If you experience symptoms like fat deposits in the skin tendons, pancreatitis, abdominal pain and liver and spleen swellings, then it is an indication that your LDL cholesterol levels are abnormally high and should be lowered. Since high LDL cholesterol levels are caused by feeding on diet of foods rich in unhealthy saturated fats and cholesterol, dietary therapy can help lower LDL cholesterol to safe levels. You should consume a low fat and low cholesterol diet. Total fat intake including unsaturated fats, polysaturated and monounsaturated fats should be reduced to 30% of the total calories you intake daily. A cholesterol unit constitutes two different elements, the lipids and the proteins, hence they are usually called lipoproteins. There are three major types of lipoproteins moving along with your blood flow. LDL or low density lipoprotein, HDL or high density lipoprotein and VLDL or very low density lipoprotein. LDL and VLDL are categorised as “bad cholesterols” while HDL is categorised as “good cholesterol”. This categorization is due to their bodily functions or capabilities. Incredible HDL benefits the body while excess of LDL and VLDL harms your body drastically.
LDL cholesterol levels reduction can gain you numerous benefits such as:
- Reducing the risk of coronary diseases, heart attack or strokes
- Cholesterol plaque formation is controlled
- Existing cholesterol plaques are eliminated
- Avoids blood clots and plaque ruptures
- Thickening or narrowing of arteries is reduced considerably
- Allows you to lead a healthy and happy lifestyle
Controlling LDL cholesterol levels can decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke or any type of coronary diseases.
4. HDL CHOLESTEROL
While having high total cholesterol is not good for a person, there is a cholesterol level where higher is better. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) is the “good” cholesterol in the blood. It accounts for transporting excess cholesterol from the body tissue and arterial blood vessels to the liver. The liver combines cholesterol with lipoproteins to be used in a variety of body functions and building of tissue. A lipoprotein is really a combined unit of fat on the inside which is surrounded by protein on the outside. Lipoproteins are used to carry cholesterol through the blood stream and away from the arteries that it can harm. Since cholesterol is water-insoluble, the bloodstream cannot make it unless of course it’s converted into a water-soluble form. That’s where water-soluble lipoproteins go into the scene. They mix with cholesterol to create water-soluble models that move through the blood stream. Because of its ability to transfer cholesterol, HDL has been labeled good cholesterol. This transportation helps prevent plaque (a tough fatty deposit) about the inner walls of major arterial blood vessels delivering bloodstream towards the organs. Raising these HDL levels can go a long way in preventing heart attacks, strokes and other health related problems.
To boost your High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, it is important to become active multiple times a week. Following a daily walking, weight lifting or exercise program can help raise the HDL levels. Also stopping smoking and changing your diet are two other keys to raising these levels. When changing the diet it is best to avoid food high in saturated fat. Egg yolks, red meat, butter, cookies, whole milk and fried foods are packed with saturated fat and can prevent one from raising these HDL levels. Adding items such as fish, vegetables, nuts, olive oil and beans can help one raise these levels and lose excess body weight.
o A complete eliminate of the higher concentration foods is not necessary in most situations.
Lifestyle Change Therapy:
Weight loss can lower LDL cholesterol levels. This can be achieved by exercise and higher activity levels. Aerobic exercises like jogging, cycling, swimming and running can lower LDL by 10%.Yoga, walking and weight training can also aid this cause. Many people find that the little things make all the difference in getting an appropriate amount of exercise into their day: taking the stairs up to their office instead of using the elevator, walking to the coffee shop instead of driving, etc. Since cigarette smoking forms oxidized LDL that leads to atherosclerosis it is recommended that you quit smoking for safe LDL levels. Drinking alcohol in moderation- one drink a day for women and two daily for men- can lower LDL by 4-8%.
If dietary and lifestyle therapy don’t produce required affects, doctors prescribe drug therapy. Common LDL lowering medications include resins like cholestyramine (Questran), colestipol (Colestid), statins like lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol) and simvastatin (Zocor); nicotinic acid (niacin) and fibrates such as gemfibrozil. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors are drugs that prevent the stomach from absorbing cholesterol from digested food. Be sure to consult with your doctor before starting to take any medication.
Natural and Herbal Treatments:
Artichoke helps better digestion of fats to lower LDL. Garlic is good for the heart. Guggul reduces LDL by increasing HDL, Policosanol, Calcium citrate, and beta-carotene. These are just a couple examples of the numerous ‘natural’ approaches that have been receiving more popularity in recent years, as some people try to move away from medications. There are various factors which affect your cholesterol levels. It’s either your age, sex, hereditary or food intake. Whatever your reason might be, keeping your cholesterol level under control is very essential. You may have heard your physician asking you to reduce the “bad cholesterol” from your body. LDL cholesterol levels are, supposed to be the “bad” ones amongst the other cholesterol moving in your blood stream.