Hdl: The Good But Complex Cholesterol
More HDL cholesterol is better, but the benefits may depend on how you get there.
In the simplest telling of the cholesterol story, HDL fights LDL . Like knights in shining armor, HDL particles patrol the blood vessels, snatching cholesterol from circulating LDL particles and from the dangerous, gooey plaque that lines artery walls. The knights of the HDL cholesterol carry their fatty cargo to the liver for recycling or disposal.
The real story isn’t quite so simple. HDL cholesterol is turning out to be a much more complex substance than we once believed. Instead of a single kind of particle, HDL cholesterol is a family of different particles. Although they all contain lipids , cholesterol, and proteins called apolipoproteins, some types are spherical while others are doughnut-shaped. Some types of HDL are great at plucking cholesterol from LDL and artery walls while other types are indifferent to cholesterol, and some even transfer cholesterol the wrong way into LDL and cells.
To further complicate matters, different HDL types do more than just carry cholesterol. Some protect LDL from being chemically altered by oxygen, a change that makes LDL extra harmful to artery walls. Under some circumstances, though, they can do just the opposite. Various HDL particles can ease inflammation in artery walls, stimulate production of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps artery walls relax, and help prevent blood clots from forming inside arteries.
Dietary Changes Are Essential
Changing what you eat can help increase your HDL cholesterol, and this will occur more quickly if you’re committed to making immediate changes in how you satisfy your hunger. Cut sugary foods, such as desserts and soda, out of your diet because these are linked to low HDL levels, according to DeVane. Limit your intake of refined carbs such as white bread as well. Eat unsaturated fats, such as those found in fatty fish, nuts, avocados and olive oil, because a very low-fat diet is also linked to low HDL levels. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes in your diet, too, because they can help raise HDL levels.
Misconception: You Should Wait For Your Doctor To Mention Cholesterol
You need to take charge of your health. Starting at age 20, ask your doctor to test your cholesterol, assess your factors and estimate your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
If youre between 20 and 39, your doctor can assess your lifetime risk. If youre between 40 and 75, they will assess your 10-year risk.
Once you know your risk, you can take action to lower it. Your doctor may recommend diet and lifestyle changes and possibly medication. Follow all of your doctors instructions and have your cholesterol and other risk factors checked every four to six years as long as your risk remains low.
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Misconception: If The Nutrition Facts Label Shows No Cholesterol The Food Is Heart Healthy
A foods Nutrition Facts label can be helpful for choosing heart-healthy foods, if you know what to look for.
Many foods marketed as low-cholesterol have high levels of saturated or trans fats, both of which raise blood cholesterol.
Look for how much saturated fat, trans fat and total calories are in a serving. Ingredients are listed in descending order of use, so choose products where fats and oils are near the end of the ingredients list.
How Long Does It Take To Reduce Cholesterol
Cholesterol drops over time, not suddenly, after a few days of healthier living. There is no set period in which cholesterol is guaranteed to drop.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs usually produce a change in LDL within 6 to 8 weeks. It is possible for lifestyle changes to change cholesterol levels within weeks. However, it may take longer,
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter
- LDL bad cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL good cholesterol: higher than 60 mg/dL
- Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL
According to an article in the journal Circulation, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommend using statins to lower cholesterol in people with cholesterol higher outside of these levels.
However, they also recommend doctors consider a persons cholesterol levels and overall risk of cardiovascular disease before prescribing a cholesterol-lowering medication.
The AHA recommends that people with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease get high-intensity statin therapy maximally tolerated statin therapy to lower LDL by at least 50%.
The AHA also recommends high-intensity statin therapy for individuals with severe primary hypercholesterolemia .
There are a number of habit changes a person can incorporate into their daily routines in order to gradually and consistently lower their LDL levels over time. Including:
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What Is The Pritikin Diet
The Pritikin diet significantly reduces saturated fatty acids trans fatty acids , and dietary cholesterol. It also increases dietary fiber in the form of natural, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. This is the healthiest way to lower cholesterol, points out cardiologist Ronald Scheib, MD, physician and educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, where the Pritikin Program has been taught since 1975.
Add Resistance Training For Heart Health
Resistance training, also known as strength training, uses machines, free weights, bands, or your own body weight to build muscle. The AHA recommends strength training at least twice a week for optimal heart health.
Aim for more reps, not more weight, as you get stronger, advises Lee Jordan, an American Council on Exercisecertified health coach and behavior change specialist in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, because thats been shown to have a greater benefit on lipids .
If youre not familiar with the moves, take a class or work with a professional trainer first to avoid injury and get the maximum benefit.
Even if you are familiar with proper form, dont leap straight from your couch to the weight rack. If youve been sedentary, particularly if you have risks for heart disease, get your doctors okay before you start exercising, says Dr. Eckel.
Then just start! That may sound ridiculous, says Jordan, but people get themselves all tied up waiting for the perfect time to begin an exercise program when this happens or that happens. Theres no perfect time. You just have to start.
Jordan believes that while the AHA frequency guidelines point to good outcomes for people who are trying to shift their cholesterol numbers, people who are just beginning to work out should aim for even more sessions: five or six days a week. Thats what it takes to establish a new habit, says Jordan. In the beginning, frequency really counts.
Additional reporting by Kaitlin Sullivan.
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Misconception: Only Men Need To Worry About Cholesterol
Both men and women tend to see higher triglyceride and cholesterol levels as they get older. Although atherosclerosis typically occurs later in women than men, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in women. Weight gain also contributes to higher levels.
Premenopausal women may have some protection from high LDL levels of cholesterol, compared to men. Thats because the female hormone estrogen is highest during the childbearing years and it tends to raise HDL cholesterol levels. This may help explain why premenopausal women are usually protected from developing heart disease.
But cholesterol levels can still rise in postmenopausal women, despite a heart-healthy diet and regular physical activity. So women nearing menopause should have their cholesterol levels checked and talk with their doctor about their risk factors and treatment options.
At one time, it was thought that hormone replacement therapy might lower a womans risk of heart disease and stroke. But studies have shown that HRT doesn’t reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in postmenopausal women. The American Heart Association doesn’t endorse HRT as a means to lower cardiovascular risks.
Doctors should consider women-specific conditions, such as premature menopause and pregnancy-associated conditions, when discussing their cholesterol levels and potential treatment options.
What Happens During A Cholesterol Test
The cholesterol test, or screening, requires a simple blood draw. You may need to fast for 8 to 12 hours before your cholesterol test. Be sure to ask your doctor how to prepare for the test.
The cholesterol test checks your levels of:
- Low-density lipoprotein or badcholesterol. Having high levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease or stroke.
- High-density lipoprotein or goodcholesterol. HDL is known as good cholesterol because high levels can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood that your body uses for energy. The combination of high levels of triglycerides with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol levels can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Total cholesterol, the total amount of cholesterol in your blood based on your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides numbers.
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How Long Does It Take To Reduce Cholesterol Levels
How long it takes to lower your cholesterol can vary, but changing your numbers over a six-month time period is a realistic goal, Grace Derocha, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Why? Six months gives your body time to process excess cholesterol and for you to form healthy habits that can help lower and prevent high cholesterol, she says.
Can You Lower Cholesterol Through Diet Alone
18-Dec-19·6 mins read
You are what you eat – and what you drink, how much exercise you do and your genetics.
“Cholesterol levels are affected by a number of factors, some you can’t do anything about – for example, family history, age, ethnicity and gender – and some you can,” says Lynne Garton, Dietetic Advisor for HEART UK. “An unhealthy diet high in saturated fat, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and not being physically active can all contribute to raised ‘bad’ cholesterol.”
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/8the Normal Level Of Ldl In The Body
The total amount of cholesterol in both men and women should not be more than 199 milligrams per deciliter . This includes the amount of LDL and HDL. 100 mg/dL or lower LDL is considered good or healthy, while between 130 to 159 mg/dL is considered borderline. Above 160 mg/dL is termed as high cholesterol.
Understanding The Highs And Lows Of Cholesterol
You know that too much is dangerous. But what is cholesterol, anyway? Where does it come from? And is it all bad?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in every cell in the body. Its either made by the body or absorbed from food. Your body needs cholesterol to make important steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and vitamin D. Its also used to make bile acids in the liver these absorb fat during digestion.
So some cholesterol is necessary but bad cholesterol is something you can do without. Excess bad cholesterol in the bloodstream can deposit into the bodys arteries. These deposits are called plaques and result in atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This is the major cause of heart attacks, strokes and other vascular problems.
Your total cholesterol level is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream, which includes several components:
- LDL cholesterol: LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. This is known as the bad cholesterol, which directly contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries. Very low density lipoprotein, or VLDL cholesterol, is another type, which is a precursor to LDL.
- Total cholesterol is VLDL cholesterol plus LDL cholesterol plus HDL cholesterol.
- HDL cholesterol: HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. Experts think at optimal levels it might help the body get rid of LDL cholesterol.
And guess what? This buildup can start as early as your 20s.
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Lifestyle Changes Are Important Too
You might be able to help raise your HDL cholesterol more quickly if you make a few lifestyle changes as well. For example, quitting smoking is one major way to improve your HDL levels since smoking cigarettes is linked to low levels, according to DeVane. In fact, quitting smoking can raise your HDL levels by 15 to 20 percent, according to the 2005 article in “Circulation.” Losing excess weight is another way to help raise your HDL cholesterol. In addition to dietary changes, adding exercise to your daily routine can help you accomplish that goal. The more exercise you engage in, the more quickly your HDL levels will increase. Moderate alcohol consumption, such as 2 to 6 ounces of wine per day, can raise HDL levels, too.
You Can Begin Lowering Cholesterol Naturally Today
Sound like a lot to take on? Dont be intimidated. Bringing down your high cholesterol doesnt have to mean changing your life completely. Rather, start with changing your mindset. Instead of moving away from things, youre moving toward new habits that will help you create a healthier and more enjoyable future.
Now is always the right time to start taking care of your heart health. If you need a little support, lean on friends and family. And dont forget: Your doctor is always there for you with advice, motivation and encouragement so you can reach your goals and live healthier.
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You Skip Your Medication Sometimes
Follow your doctorâs directions about any prescriptions. If you do forget to take your medicine, donât try to âmake upâ doses by taking more the next time. It may not work the way itâs supposed to, or it may make you dizzy or sick. Make sure to tell your doctor about any drugs you already take. Some drugs can cause problems if theyâre taken at the same time as other meds.
Saturated And Unsaturated Fat
There are 2 main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- meat pies
- cakes and biscuits
- foods containing coconut or palm oil
Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can actually help reduce cholesterol levels.
Try to replace foods containing saturated fats with small amounts of foods high in unsaturated fats, such as:
- oily fish such as mackerel and salmon
- nuts such as almonds and cashews
- seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- vegetable oils and spreads such as rapeseed or vegetable oil, sunflower, olive, corn and walnut oils
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How Fat Moves From Food To The Bloodstream
Fat and cholesterol cant dissolve in water or blood. Instead, the body packages fat and cholesterol into tiny, protein-covered particles called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins can transport a lot of fat they mix easily with blood and flow with it. Some of these particles are big and fluffy, while others are small and dense. The most important ones are low-density lipoproteins , high-density lipoproteins , and triglycerides.
- Low Density lipoproteins
Low-density lipoproteins carry cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body. Cells latch onto these particles and extract fat and cholesterol from them. When there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, these particles can form deposits in the walls of the coronary arteries and other arteries throughout the body. Such deposits, called plaque, can narrow arteries and limit blood flow. When plaque breaks apart, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. Because of this, LDL cholesterol is often referred to as bad, or harmful, cholesterol.
- High-density lipoproteins
High-density lipoproteins scavenge cholesterol from the bloodstream, from LDL, and from artery walls and ferry it back to the liver for disposal. Think of HDL as the garbage trucks of the bloodstream. HDL cholesterol is often referred to as good, or protective, cholesterol.
In general, the lower your LDL and the higher your HDL, the better your chances of preventing heart disease and other chronic conditions.
What Is ‘bad’ Cholesterol
Whilst cholesterol is seen as the enemy of a healthy diet, we actually need the fatty substance to stay healthy. “It’s needed to make cell membranes, various hormones, certain vitamins and bile salts which are important for the digestion of fat,” explains Garton.
The problem comes when there are high levels of cholesterol in the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia. The risk increases the longer the higher cholesterol is left untreated.
There are actually two main types of cholesterol involved: low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein .
“LDL is the main carrier of cholesterol in the blood and is often called ‘bad’ cholesterol because too much LDL cholesterol can build up in your arteries and cause narrowing,” says Garton. “HDL is often called ‘good’ as it picks up excess cholesterol from the arteries and takes it back to the liver where it can be removed from the circulation. As well as LDL cholesterol, other non-HDL cholesterol is considered ‘bad’ as it can also contribute to fatty build-up in the arteries.
“The ideal situation is to have low non-HDL cholesterol. It’s also important that your HDL cholesterol does not drop too low.”
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You Eat A Lot Of Trans Fat
Sometimes called âpartially hydrogenatedâ fats or oils, you find them in fried foods, pastries, pizza dough, doughnuts, muffins, cookies, crackers, and many prepackaged foods. They raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower the good stuff. Check food labels to limit trans fats. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts.
What Kind And How Much Exercise Will Help Lower Ldl Cholesterol
Even regular mild aerobic exercise the kind that gets your heart rate up can make a huge difference in lipid levels.
A meta-analysis of 11 studies published in November 2018 in the journal BioMed Research International found that after 8 to 24 weeks of low- or moderate-intensity exercise for 30 to 40 minutes a day, participants had lower LDL cholesterol levels in some studies, as well as lower LDL subfractions in others.
To improve cholesterol levels, as well as lower your blood pressure and overall risk for heart attack and stroke, the American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. This works out to be about 20 minutes of exercise every day, or 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. You can mix up moderate and vigorous activity if that makes it easier for you to stick to a workout schedule. And if youre a bit rusty, its completely fine to start slow, at 15 minutes a day or so of moderate-intensity exercise, and work your way up from there.
Some examples of moderate-intensity exercise:
- Walking briskly
- Playing tennis
- Jumping rope
- Aerobic dancing
There are also tons of instructor-led workout classes you can do from home for free. If youre new to exercise or coming back after a long break, the Cleveland Clinic warns that you may have to drop down to a slightly lower level of activity and work your way back up.
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