Why High Cholesterol Is Harmful and How You Can Lower It?
So, your doctor says your cholesterol numbers are up, and you need to lower them, pronto. But, you may also be asking just what is high cholesterol, and how you can lower it? After all, it’s something we always hear about, although we may not understand just what all the fuss is over.
But, fear not–with a little help, you can find out just what high cholesterol is and how controlling it will help you enjoy better heart health, less chance of deadly coronary disease, and a longer, healthier life.
Here is what you need to know about just what high cholesterol is, and what you need to do to keep your numbers in check.
What is High Cholesterol?
First, let’s get one thing straight: Your body needs cholesterol, since it is necessary for such things as producing vitamin D, digestive bile, and a few other critical hormones.
Cholesterol itself is a fatty, waxy substance which is made up of fats and proteins and comes it in two basic types: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)–AKA “bad” cholesterol; and high-density Lipoprotein (HDL), AKA “good” cholesterol. And, as you can likely figure out, one of these two types are better for you than the other, since one is called “good” and the other “bad.”
And The Reason For This?
Since HDL helps rid your body of LDL by carrying it along to your liver so that it can be expelled as waste, it is known as a good cholesterol, since it helps get rid of the bad cholesterol.
However, the reason why LDL is considered bad is that it carries cholesterol to the body’s arteries where the excess can be deposited. And, this can result in arteries which are hardened due to its plaque-like buildup, which in turn can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
Naturally, this means that having ample amounts of HDL is essential in maintaining healthy levels of LDL!
What Causes High Cholesterol?
There are many risk factors which can lead to high cholesterol, most of which are easily managed with some care and discipline. However, these factors which can include inactivity, obesity, and poor diet aren’t the only causes of high cholesterol. In fact, some people are naturally more susceptible to having too much LDL due to genetic traits, such as their liver producing excessive amounts of it, or their body’s cells not efficiently removing it.
However, for most of us, only around 20% of the body’s cholesterol comes directly from foods we eat, and the rest is synthesized from food components such as proteins, sugars and fats. This means that our LDL levels are more likely to be elevated due to poor dietary and lifestyle choices, such as:
- Smoking-Components of cigarette smoke damage the linings of blood vessels, which makes it easier for cholesterol to cling and build up.
- A diet high in saturated fats—Foods such as conventionally raised beef, snacks containing trans fats (such as Oreo cookies), or deep-fried foods are rife with saturated fats which convert easily to LDL. As with many foods which we love but are bad for us, moderation is key!
- Leading an inactive lifestyle—When we are active, our metabolism is active, which means we are better able to burn off excess fats which can otherwise convert to LDL. Plus, exercise also helps boost our levels of HDL, and makes LDL less harmful.
- Being obese—In addition to the increased strain carrying around excessive weight puts on our cardiovascular system, those with a high body mass index for their body type are more susceptible to high LDL levels in their bloodstream.
- Having diabetes—High blood sugar can not only damage the linings of arteries, it can also increase LDL levels while decreasing HDL levels.
Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Unfortunately, high cholesterol itself has no warning symptoms, and the only “symptoms” you may experience are once it is too late—as in, heart attack or stroke.
However, high cholesterol can be detected through a routine blood test, which should be done annually, or more often for those who are at higher risk.
Foods To Avoid For High Cholesterol
Foods which contain high amounts of trans fats, saturated fats, and/or simple sugars should be avoided, or at least consumed in moderation. These can include:
- Conventionally raised beef
- Highly processed foods
- Fast foods
- Crispy fried snack foods, such as potato chips or Oreo cookies
- Deep fried foods
- Full fat, conventionally raised dairy foods
- Processed meats, such as sausage or bacon
- Alcoholic beverages
Remedies And How To Lower Cholesterol
For some of us, lowering our cholesterol can be as easy as getting regular exercise and monitoring the amounts of cholesterol-rich foods we eat.
However, those with genetically high cholesterol, it may not be as easy, and in addition to lifestyle and dietary changes, some medical means may be necessary. These can include a process called lipoprotein apheresis, which involves filtering LDL out of the blood.
There are also supplements which may help to reduce cholesterol. However, foods rich in omega 3 oils, soluble fiber, and protein which are low in sugar and hydrogenated and trans fats is recommended first.
That said, supplements which can help are:
- Omega 3 supplements, including fish oil and olive oil
- Omega 7 (Ultra Omega Burn)
- Red yeast rice
And of course, getting ample exercise each day is essential not only in lowering your LDL levels, but in keeping your heart healthy and weight in check. So, skip the elevator and take the stairs, walk rather than taking the car for short trips, and join a gym—staying fit may be easier than you think!
Just what is high cholesterol and how you can lower it you ask? Well, now you have the answers which can help you live a longer, fuller, and healthier life.
And for most of us, all we need are a few lifestyle and dietary alterations which, other than requiring some discipline and willingness to change, aren’t so hard to accomplish—especially when you consider the alternative.
So, eat wisely, exercise, and do whatever is necessary in maintaining healthy cholesterol numbers—you’ll be happy you did!