Cholesterol is found in most of the body’s tissues. It comes from two sources. Some cholesterol is made within the body itelself, mostly in the liver. Cholesterol also comes from the foods we eat. We cannot voluntarily control the cholesterol made within our bodies, but we can contol the cholesterol that we voluntarily ingest.
Although cholesterol is essential for many body processes, too much cholesterol can lead to heart attack and stroke. Excess cholesterol, beyond what the body needs to function, causes fatty deposits, known as ‘plaque’ to form in the blood vessels. This plaque narrows the vessels and prevents the blood from flowing normally, starving the body of needed oxygen.
Some individuals that are more likely, than others, to suffer from high cholesterol. These include individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure, males over 45, females over 55, those who are inactive or eat poorly, those who smoke, and those who have already had at least one heart attack. Those with a family history of high cholesterol or heart attack are also at risk.
High cholesterol, having no visible symptoms is considered, like high blood pressure, to be a silent killer.
A simple blood test is all that is needed to ascertain cholesterol levels.
There are two main types of cholesterol, good HDL, and bad LDL. Ideally good cholesterol, HDL, should be kept at over 50, and bad cholesterol, LDL, should be kept well under 100. Individual cholesterol levels may vary for a variety of reasons. You family physician will suggest an ideal level for you.
There are two main ways to lower your level of bad cholesterol.
1. Decrease you level of cholesterol rich foods, which include:
dairy foods, which include butter, cheese, and milk (skim milk is a good option)
meats, especially organ meats (choose lean cuts of meat, in moderate portions)
shellfish, and shrimp
fish packed in oil
processed meats and fast food
2. Increase your level of activity. A minimum of thirty working up to sixty minutes per day of moderate exercise is needed. If the activity is vigorous, it will not only decrease weight as it lowers bad cholesterol LDL, but it will also increase good cholesterol HDL.
HD, or good cholesterol, not only reduces the body’s bad cholesterol, it also promotes heart health, fights disease, and boosts the body’s immune system.
As you work to decrease the bad cholesterol in the body, you must also work to increase your heart health. Do this by:
A. eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day,
B. substituting red meats with heart healthy fish such as tuna, salmon, cod, and halibut,
C. eating whole grains,
D. avoiding fast foods and highly processed foods,
E. drinking only in moderation
F. avoiding foods that contain trans fats. Some margarine, often used to replace butter, may contain high levels of trans fats, which raise your bad cholesterol while reducing your good cholesterol.
Those who cannot lower their cholesterol with exercise and dietary changes, may need medication, something to be avoided if possible.