Why Should I Lower My Cholesterol
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries
- transient ischaemic attack often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity .
What Did The Research Involve
The study involved workers covered by the Ibermutuamur insurance company who had yearly medical check-ups. More than 430,000 participants were recruited between 2005 and 2007, and a study questionnaire was sent out to more than 100,000 randomly selected individuals. Completed questionnaires were returned by 91,593 of these people.
The questionnaire included the question, “During the last year, have you frequently felt that you cannot cope with your usual job?”. Participants who answered “yes” were considered to have job stress.
The questionnaire also included 11 questions relating to anxiety and depression symptoms, such as “Have you felt keyed up, on edge?” and “Have you had difficulty relaxing?”.
The researchers took fasting blood samples from participants and measured levels of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol , and levels of a type of lipid called triglycerides. The levels of so-called “bad” cholesterol were calculated based on these measurements.
Participants were classed as having abnormal lipid levels based on pre-specified levels if they reported taking lipid-lowering medication or had been diagnosed as having abnormal lipid levels.
The researchers then looked at whether abnormal lipid levels are linked to job stress. They took into account the following confounders:
- type of job
Reduce Your Intake Of Saturated And Trans Fats
Adopt and follow a healthy diet thats low in saturated and trans fats. A diet high in these fats can raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature. Its found in animal products such as meat and dairy, but also in palm oil, coconut oil and full-cream milk. Read more about saturated fat-rich foods here.
Trans fats are found in store-bought baked goods, snack foods and deep-fried foods. There is strong evidence that trans fats increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood, while decreasing levels of HDL cholesterol.
Some foods contain cholesterol . Foods that contain cholesterol include liver, pate, kidneys, prawns and egg yolks. These types of food are not usually eaten in large quantities, so its OK to include them in your diet in small amounts.
Foods that contain saturated fats have a greater effect on blood cholesterol levels than foods that contain dietary cholesterol.
Where Did The Story Come From
The study was carried out by researchers from Ibermutuamur a mutual insurance company dealing with work-related accidents and occupational illnesses and two universities in Spain. There were no external sources of funding for the study.
It was published in the peer-reviewed Scandinavian Journal of Public Health.
The Mail Online’s headline over-interprets the research, as the study did not assess whether people in stressful jobs were more likely to die. The body of the story was reasonably accurate, but it did not highlight that this type of study cannot prove that one factor is definitely causing another.
Coping Skills Aid Hdl Cholesterol
The results were a surprise, Aldwin tells WebMD. “What we were really expecting is that coping would mitigate the effects of stress on LDL,” she says. But the researchers found that the good coping skills only helped the protective effect of the “good” HDL cholesterol.
“People who coped well had higher levels of HDL than people who didn’t cope well,” she says.
She cannot cite an exact improvement in HDL or an average HDL level among those who coped well. “This is simply a correlational study,” she says, finding an association between good coping skills and better HDL levels.
The amount of stress you deal with isn’t as important, they also found, as how you deal with it. “Stress doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you cope with it,” she says.
While the study included only men, Aldwin says she would think the same findings would apply to women.
How Often Should I Have My Cholesterol Tested
Adults should have their blood lipids measured every 5 years, starting at 45 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should start lipid blood tests at 35, because on average heart and blood vessel disease such as heart attacks and stroke happen 10 to 20 years earlier in Indigenous people.
All Australians in these age groups are eligible for a regular 20-minute heart health check with their doctor. This checks your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Your doctor can then assess your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 5 years.
The Personality Factor In Stress
Each person has a different physiological reaction to stress. Some research suggests that an individual’s personality typeclassified by the letters A, B, C, D, and Ecan predict that response. Types A and D are high-stress personalities. Those with Type A personality are typically time-oriented, focused and detail-oriented. People with type D personality are known for repressing their feelings.
Individuals who have either a type A or D personality seem especially sensitive to stress hormones. This means that their heart rates increase, arteries restrict and sugars are released into the bloodstream at higher rates than those with more relaxed personality types.
Also Check: What Is Triglycerides And Cholesterol
Replace Saturated Fats With Healthier Fats
Replacing foods that contain mainly saturated fats with foods that contain unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats will help reduce your cholesterol level.
For example, instead of butter and cream in cooking, use olive oil, nut butters or avocado.
Healthy unsaturated fats are found in:
- oily fish
- fruits and vegetables
Stress And The Unhealthy Lifestyle
One of the reasons found for the stress and high cholesterol link is bad lifestyle habits. Those who are stressed are more likely to follow less healthy habits in other areas of their life. Theyre less likely to exercise and more likely to eat bad food. After all, saturated and trans fat foods tend to be the comfort foods those that people crave to try to boost their endorphin and serotonin levels.
People who are stressed will look for ways to counter their cortisol levels, and that is usually through unhealthy methods. People are more likely to drink or smoke, which puts other strains on their body. The body isnt able to produce the good cholesterol and is encouraged to create bad cholesterol.
This reason is highly common in men. It is men who tend to deal with stress the worst, possibly due to misconceptions that relaxation techniques are for women. They also tend to have higher stressful jobs than women, since many men are in higher positions of power and authority. Men tend to be in more leadership roles, which means more responsibility and decision making. It may not seem fair, but thats just a common view.
Recommended Reading: Does Olive Oil Raise Cholesterol
Cholesterol Deposits On Your Skin
Some people with high cholesterol develop cholesterol nodules or deposits on their skin called xanthomas. The most common locations for xanthomas are on the inner corners of the eyelids near your nose and are only cosmetic problems. Xanthomas can also form on your elbows, knees, arms, and legs.
You can get xanthomas removed, but they can grow back.
Cortisol Measures In Daily Life
Saliva samples were collected using cotton dental rolls held in the mouth until saturated, and then stored in Salivette tubes . Participants were instructed to take ten samples over a single working day, with measures on waking up, 30 min later, and then within eight 30-min time windows space at two hourly intervals through the day and evening . Participants were told not to eat, drink tea or coffee, or smoke in the 30 min before each sample was collected. The time of waking was also recorded. Tubes were returned to the investigators personally or by post, and cortisol was analyzed using a biotinstreptavidin fluorescence immunoassay, with inter- and intra-assay coefficients of variation < 8%.
Read Also: What Milk Is Best To Lower Cholesterol
Job Stress May Raise Our ‘bad Cholesterol’ Levels
‘A stressful job really can kill you by raising your cholesterol,’ reports the Mail Online website. This headline is based on Spanish research that looked at the relationship between job stress and lipid levels in the blood of more than 90,000 people.
The research found that people who reported difficulties coping with their job had higher levels of what has been dubbed “bad cholesterol” and lower levels of “good cholesterol” . High levels of LDL cholesterol can clog up the arteries, increasing an individual’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease.
A significant strength of this study is its size an impressive 90,000 people participated. But the study did not look at diet, which can also affect cholesterol levels. It could well be the case that people in stressful jobs tend to have unhealthy diets and it is this, rather than stress itself, that is to blame for their higher “bad” cholesterol rates.
While increased LDL levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, this study did not explore the effect this would have on people’s long-term health. The Mail Online’s claim that a stressful job will kill you is therefore not supported by this study.
Medications And Alternative Supplements
If reducing stress hasnt sufficiently reduced high cholesterol, there are medications and alternative remedies that you can try.
These medications and remedies include:
- omega-3 fatty acids
Whether using prescription medications or alternative supplements, always consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan. Even if theyre natural, small changes in a treatment plan can interfere with medications or supplements youre already taking.
You May Like: How To Increase Your Hdl Cholesterol
Level Down Your Ldl With Diet
St. Louis-based food and nutrition consultant Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, explains: “LDL cholesterol is determined by genetics, age, diet and activity levels. inherit the tendency for cholesterol levels, just as with blood glucose and blood pressure. But lifestyle can manage levels,” â including diet.
A heart-healthy diet is a significant way you can help control your LDL, according to the NLM.
If you know you’re at risk for higher LDL, advises Diekman, you should eat less foods high in saturated fat, while upping your intake of unsaturated fats and soluble fiber.
Mayo Clinic agrees, noting that just 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber each day can lower LDL. Translation: Just one serving of fiber-rich cereal, oatmeal or oat bran can give you 3 to 4 grams alone â even more if you throw in some berries or banana.
So when you make your next trip to the grocery store, Diekman recommends you fill your cart with the following:
- Wholegrains .
- Fruits .
- Nuts and seeds.
- Oils made from seeds .
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy.
- Lean meat,fish and poultry.
In terms of regimen, you should “consume meat and poultry occasionally,” Diekman says, with “fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel more often.” And, for your main source of protein, she recommends plant-based from such sources as beans, nuts, tofu and edamame.
What Has The Biggest Impact On Ldl Cholesterol
Contrary to the long-held belief that dietary cholesterol itself is a major cause of high LDL, evidence suggests a weaker link. Its still a good idea to steer clear of dietary cholesterol, but that intake isnt the biggest influence. The current understanding is that the specific mix of carbohydrates and fats in your diet is the biggest factor in determining your LDL levels.
There are various causes that can raise your blood cholesterol levels. The main cause that is difficult to prevent and which is rare includes the genetic cause, which gives rise to familial hypercholesterolemia. Other major ones are the environmental causes that include poor dietary choices, a physically inactive lifestyle, and obesity.
The most common cause of high cholesterol is eating an unhealthy diet. Unhealthy dietary choices include choosing foods that consist of saturated fats found in animal products and trans fats present in foods that are commercially packed such as baked cookies, doughnuts, and crackers, among others.
Some foods contain an extremely high amount of cholesterol and they can cause blood levels to rise very high. Organ meat is one, but the brain is the highest provider.
For example, a single 140 g serving of pork brains in milk gravy that is readily available can contain 3500 milligrams of cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends healthy adults get no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.
Read Also: Does Flaxseed Good For Cholesterol
Stress And Cholesterol: Does Stress Cause High Cholesterol
Everyone goes through periods of stress, especially these days. Stress is a natural part of life, brought on by problems great and small. It can come from a traumatic event, like the loss of a loved one, everyday worries about work, finances, and friends, from fear of illness, anxiety or depression, or even just from having an irregular sleep schedule. Your body is hardwired to respond to stress with a series of protective chemical reactions. But suffering from constant stress can be bad for your health. One of the dangers is the correlation between chronic stress and high cholesterol.
How Forward Can Help You Reduce Your Stress For A Healthier Heart
Forward takes a proactive and preventive approach to reducing your risk for a wide range of diseases. As your primary care provider, we help you take control of your overall health including your stressthrough a range of programs and resources. The Forward Guide to Mediation for Stress Management can help you lower your stressand your bodys physiological response to it in the future. Our doctor-led healthy heart program is open to all members and includes cholesterol, blood pressure, and stress management education and monitoring so you can achieve your wellness goals and enjoy better health moving forward.
Read Also: How Much Cholesterol Is There In An Egg
Health Problems That Raise Cholesterol Levels
While genes or an unhealthy diet are often the causes of high cholesterol, many health conditions can also be culprits.
Many people have high cholesterol because of physical inactivity or a diet too high in saturated fats, or because it runs in the family. But having other health conditions can also cause high cholesterol levels, especially conditions that affect your metabolism, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism .
How Does Stress Cause High Cholesterol
Chemically, experiencing stress induces a fight or flight reaction in the body. This evolutionary reaction is meant to give your body the tools it needs to respond to a potentially dangerous situation. Experiencing stress, trauma, or anxiety prompts the body to produce hormones like cortisol.
Cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands right above the kidneys, has quite a few essential functions in your body. It manages how your body processes carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Cortisol also lowers inflammation, regulates blood pressure, influences your immune system, and distributes glucose, or blood sugar, throughout the body. An increase in blood sugar levels stimulates the production of triglycerides . More triglycerides mean higher cholesterol. So, can stress cause high triglycerides and, by turn, more elevated cholesterol? Absolutely yes, because of the power of the cortisol response.
The other way that stress can encourage higher cholesterol is by causing changes in activity. Stress can invite unhealthy coping mechanisms, like binge-eating comfort foods or staying indoors for long periods. Recurring, stress-induced changes in behavior like these put you at risk for higher cholesterol.
Also Check: Does The Keto Diet Increase Your Cholesterol
Who Should Be Tested
Your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini-stroke , or peripheral arterial disease
- are over the age of 40 people over 40 should have their estimate of CVD risk reviewed regularly
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease for example, if your father or brother developed heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55, or if your mother or sister had these conditions before the age of 65
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia
- are overweight or obese
- have high blood pressure or diabetes
- have another medical condition, such as kidney disease, an underactive thyroid, or an inflamed pancreas these conditions can cause increased levels of cholesterol or triglycerides
The Fight Or Flight Response In Stress
For all its unpleasant sensations, from sweaty palms to a pounding heart, fear is the body’s way of protecting itself against danger. In prehistoric times, the threat may have been a hungry bear. Today, it’s more likely to be a demanding boss.
When this happens, the body jumps into action. The hypothalamus, a gland located near the brain stem, triggers the release of two hormonesadrenaline and cortisolthat speed up the heart, stimulate the release of energy and increase blood flow to the brain. The body is preparing itself to either stay and fight or run.
The same chemical reaction occurs whether the threat is immediate physical harm or the potential loss of income and prestige.
Read Also: How Many Carbons Are In Cholesterol