Cholesterol is one of the most familiar medical words today. Everyone knows "something" about it, but mostly cholesterol is associated in our mind with something "bad" and "unwanted" that happens to old and overweight people. The facts show that about 20 percent of the U.S. population has high blood cholesterol level.
Actually cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance (lipid) that your body needs for many important functions, such as producing new cells , some hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat. It is present in cell walls or membranes everywhere in the body, including the brain, nerves, muscle, skin, liver, intestines, and heart.
In fact our bodies need cholesterol to function normally, but too much cholesterol can be bad for our health. Why? Cholesterol and other fats can't dissolve in the blood. They have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers. Cholesterol travels through your blood attached to a protein. This cholesterol-protein package is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are high density or low density depending on how much protein there is in relation to fat.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood. If too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries feeding the heart and brain. Together with other substances it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog those arteries. When the coronary arteries become narrowed or clogged by cholesterol and fat deposits (a process called atherosclerosis) and cannot supply enough blood to the heart, the result is coronary heart disease. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage of a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack. This is usually due to a sudden closure from a blood clot forming on top of a previous narrowing. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is called "bad" cholesterol because it can cause cholesterol buildup and blockage of your arteries. LDL is mostly fat with only a small amount of protein.
About one-third to one-fourth of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Medical experts think HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it's passed from the body. Some experts believe HDL removes excess cholesterol from plaques and thus slows their growth. HDL is called "good" cholesterol because it helps prevent cholesterol from building up in your arteries. It is mostly protein with only a small amount of fat.
Cholesterol-lowering medication is often the first solution people consider when told that their blood cholesterol level is higher than it should be. However, making smart nutritional choices and exercising is the best way to make your way onto becoming a healthier person.
Gradual and permanent changes in your diet will not only reduce your risk of developing heart disease, but will also protect you against other serious conditions such as high blood pressure, cancer, stroke and diabetes.
The main lifestyle changes to help you lower your cholesterol level are:
* Reduce fat and cholesterol in your diet.
* Increase your level of physical activity.
Since there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol it is not only necessary to know your cholesterol level,it is also important to know your levels of LDL and HDL.
The fact is that there are no symptoms of high cholesterol. Your first symptom of high cholesterol could be a heart attack or a stroke. The level of cholesterol can be measured only with a blood test. The results come as three main numbers:
The level of LDL should be less than 160.
Total cholesterol should be less than 200.
The level of HDL should be more than 35.
Most Important: Your LDL level is a good indicator of your risk for heart disease. Lowering LDL is the main aim of treatment if you have high cholesterol. In general, the higher your LDL level, the greater your chance of developing heart disease.
Remember: Regular cholesterol tests are recommended to find out if your cholesterol level is within normal range.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT YOUR LDL CHOLESTEROL LEVELS?
The main cause of high blood cholesterol is eating too much fat, especially saturated fat. Saturated fats are found in animal products, such as meats, milk and other dairy products that are not fat free, butter, and eggs. Some of these foods are also high in cholesterol. Fried fast foods and snack foods often have a lot of fat.
Being overweight and not exercising can make your bad cholesterol go up and your good cholesterol go down. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol level. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.
* Maintain a healthy body weight.
Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to have cholesterol rich plaques rupture and have heart attacks. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL cholesterol by as much as 15 percent.
Also, after women go through menopause, their bad cholesterol level tend to go up. There is also a rare type of inherited high cholesterol that often leads to early heart disease. Some people inherit a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, which means that very high cholesterol levels run in the family. Other people, especially people for whom diabetes runs in the family, inherit high triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are another type of blood fat that can also push up cholesterol levels. People with high blood triglycerides usually have lower HDL cholesterol and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Progesterone, anabolic steroids and male sex hormones (testosterone) also lower HDL cholesterol levels.
So we can make a conclusion that the main therapy is to change your lifestyle. This includes controlling your weight, eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, exercising regularly, not smoking and, in some cases, drinking less alcohol.
But depending on your risk factors, if healthy eating and exercise don't work after about 6 months to 1 year, your doctor may suggest medicine to lower your cholesterol level.
Now there are very effective medications called "statins," such as Lipitor.
The drug works by helping to clear harmful low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol out of the blood and by limiting the body's ability to form new LDL cholesterol. Each tablet Lipitor includes 20mg Atorvastatin. It is in a class of medications called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. It works by slowing the production of cholesterol in the body. Lipitor has shown the ability to halt, not just slow, the potentially fatal buildup of plaque in clogged arteries. While a handful of drugs now available slow the buildup of new plaque, or atherosclerosis, in coronary arteries, no drug on the market has been proven to both stop new build-up and clear existing plaque.
So if you are losing the battle with LDL levels , you can visit my site www.craforhealth.com/cholesterol.html, dedicated in the effective medical care, to find the proper treatment for your disease.
"How should I change my diet?" you might ask. Well, the best way is to incorporate cholesterol-lowering foods to your daily meal plan. To help you, we'll make a list of the top food choices for reaching healthy cholesterol level. But, even though these foods have great benefits, you'll still need to limit saturated and trans fats as part of your heart healthy eating.
Oats and Barley
These whole grains are among the best sources of soluble fiber, which blocks your body's ability to absorb cholesterol and “is your best friend for lowering LDL cholesterol,” says American Dietetic Association spokesperson Ximena Jimenez, MS, RD.
The soluble fiber that oats and barley contain — called beta-glucan — is particularly powerful. Eating oats with at least 3 grams of soluble fiber every day, for example, can lower LDL and total cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent.
Try this: Eat oatmeal for breakfast and sprinkle oat bran into yogurt. Use cooked barley, a versatile, nutty-tasting grain, as you would rice — in soups, in salads, or as a side mixed with veggies.
Beans and Other Legumes
Beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts are also wonderful soluble fiber sources: Every half-cup of cooked lima beans provides 3.5 grams, for example. One study in The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a half cup of cooked dried pinto beans (2 grams of soluble fiber) daily for 12 weeks decreased LDL cholesterol by about 7 percent.
Try this: Make rice and beans or bean-based soups. Toss beans, lentils, or peas into salads, or swap them in for meat in pasta dishes, suggests Jimenez. The TLC diet recommends three to five half-cup servings daily of vegetables, dry beans, or legumes.
Nuts are another good source of monounsaturated fats. Eating 1 ounce of any kind of nuts daily for one month may lower LDL cholesterol by 8 to 20 percent.
Try this: Nosh on an ounce a day — the equivalent of 23 almonds, 35 peanuts, 14 English walnut halves, 49 pistachios, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Or add chopped nuts to salads, pasta, or yogurt. Nuts do have a lot of calories, so don’t eat them by the fistful.
These little guys have been recently identified to have an antioxidant called pterostilbene (similar to the antioxidant found in grapes and red wine). This compound is believed to be effective for lowering LDL cholesterol level. Blueberries can be very easily added to your diet. Throw some on top of your breakfast cereal in the morning or make yourself a delicious blueberry smoothie for dessert!
Soy — high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and cholesterol free — is the only complete plant-based protein, which means it’s an equal swap for animal sources like meat and dairy. A study published in 2010 in The Journal of Nutrition found that eating soy daily — and adding it to your diet to replace foods high in saturated fat — can help lower LDL cholesterol by nearly 8 to 10 percent.
Try this: Nosh on edamame as a snack or add them to salads, drink soy milk, and use tofu in smoothies or as a replacement for meat in salads and stir-fries. Soy counts toward the daily three to five half-cup servings of vegetables, dry beans, or legumes that the TLC diet recommends.
Soy foods help your heart by slashing the amount of saturated fat that you eat. Not only that, but beneficial compounds found in soy, known as isoflavones, work to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Not familiar with soy foods? They basically include tofu, soy milk, soy nuts, and soy flour. An easy way to incorporate them into your diet is to use them as a substitute for meat and cheese in recipes, to reduce saturated fat.
Turns out that an apple a day really does keep the doctor away! This special fruit is rich in both pectin and fiber, along with a list of powerful antioxidants, including quercetin, phloridzin and chlorogenci acid, which help lower bad cholesterol while rising the good kind. There are so many kinds of apples out there to try -- Granny Smith, Red delicious, Gala, and McIntosh just to name a few. Add a few slices to your oatmeal or have one for an afternoon snack.
It has been shown through various studies that certain types of fact can protect us against high cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon, help lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol and lower triglycerides. And as if that wasn't enough, salmon is also an excellent source of protein. Other fish that are beneficial in this matter include tuna, anchovies, rainbow trout, herring, sardines and mackerel. Include any of these options in your lunch or dinner at least two times per week and your cholesterol level will thank you!
Want a fresh blast of antioxidant compounds? Easy, just drink up a cup of tea! Research has shown that tea can help keep blood vessels relaxed and prevent blood clots. The major antioxidants in tea, flavanoids, have proved to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and could even help lower blood pressure. Enjoy a cup of hot or iced tea. There is such a vast selection to choose from that you'll definitely find one you like. Even try replacing your morning coffee for a delicious cup of tea.
Try this: Although in some of the studies participants consumed the equivalent of 18 cups of green tea daily, experts don’t recommend that everyone start binging on green tea. More research is needed to know how much green tea to drink to improve cholesterol levels. Jimenez suggests sipping one to two 8-ounce cups daily. Also, keep in mind that most green tea contains caffeine (there are decaf versions), so you don’t want to overdo it, especially too close to bedtime.
While butter and other solid fats raise cholesterol, the unsaturated fats in oils help lower it. Polyunsaturated fats, found primarily in corn, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower oil, slash LDL cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats, found mainly in olive, avocado, and canola oil, not only lower LDL, but may also raise HDL.
Try this: Cook with oils instead of butter, mix them with vinegar for salad dressing, or drizzle them along with herbs and spices on vegetables before roasting. Moderation is key, since oil is high in fat and calories. Stick to about 1 teaspoon with each meal, advises American Dietetic Association spokesperson Toby Smithson, RD.
Garlic: Throughout history, garlic has been used in most cultures because of its unique flavor and nutritional benefits. It has been found that garlic can not only lower cholesterol, but reduce blood pressure and protect us against infections. Now research has also proved that it can help stop artery-clogging by keeping cholesterol particles from sticking onto artery walls.
Getting 10 to 12 grams of blond psyllium (the kind of fiber in supplements like Metamucil) per day can decrease LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent, according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. You mix psyllium powder into water and drink it as a beverage.
Try this: Consult your doctor before taking blond psyllium, since it could interfere with the absorption of certain medications. Then start with 3 grams of psyllium (widely available in health food stores and drugstores), and gradually increase the amount until you’re taking 10 to 12 grams daily, says Jimenez. “It’s important to not take psyllium in large doses, since it’s a laxative, it may cause potassium depletion, and may decrease absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E,” she notes.
And make sure you get enough fluids — if you don’t, psyllium can cause constipation, and possibly even obstruct your bowel or esophagus. Follow package directions to make sure you drink enough.
Red Wine and Grape Juice
Alcohol can raise levels of good HDL cholesterol by as much as 5 to 15 percent, research shows — and red wine is particularly beneficial because its polyphenol antioxidants may also lower LDL levels. If you’re not into vino, grape juice can provide some of the same heart-healthy benefits.
Try this: Stick to one 5-ounce glass of wine a day for women and two for men. For grape juice, Smithson suggests 8 ounces per day of purple grape juice for women and 16 ounces a day for men — pick 100 percent fruit juice, not the sugar-added varieties. You can also snack on purple or red grapes, which contain the same antioxidants with the added benefit of fiber, notes Smithson.
In good news for chocoholics, a meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that cocoa consumption lowered LDL cholesterol by more than 5 mg/dL in people at risk of heart disease. Most studies lasted about one month and looked at the effects of dark chocolate and cocoa powder. But the study authors caution that more research is needed to know whether the effects last or how much to eat to achieve results.
Try this: Most chocolate products also contain a lot of sugar and saturated fat in addition to the cocoa’s heart-healthy antioxidants, so don’t mistake them for health foods. When you’re craving a treat, nibble on a small piece or two of dark chocolate (at least 60 percent cocoa), which has more antioxidants than milk chocolate, or make chocolate milk or hot cocoa with 2 tablespoons of natural cocoa powder.
These foods are all delicious and very easy to find. Including them in your daily diet should be no problem. To prove this, here is a brief example of what a healthy cholesterol-fighting meal plan should look like:
LUNCH: Wild salmon with rice and vegetables
DINNER: Soy burger on bun with healthy fries
SNACK: Yogurt with fresh blueberries & cup of tea
Try adding all of these cholesterol-fighting foods to your diet, and you will most likely start feeling healthier in no time. However, don't forget that a consistent exercise plan is also key to this process.
Changing your lifestyle is the most important, and most difficult, step when trying to lower your cholesterol levels. Think about meeting a nutritionist in addition to your doctor to make this change easier on you. Your heart will thank you!