Plant Sterols Can Lower Cholesterol Levels
Plant sterols are found naturally in plant foods including sunflower and canola seeds, vegetable oils and in nuts, legumes, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Some margarine and milks have concentrated plant sterols added to them. Margarines enriched with plant sterolslower LDL cholesterol in most people if the correct amount is eaten .
What Is Considered High Cholesterol
Lipid panel results that fall outside of the desired range place you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke:
Borderline High 200 to 239 mg/dL
High at or above 240 mg/dL
Near-Optimal 100 to 129 mg/dL
Borderline High 130 to 159 mg/dL
High 160 to 189 mg/dL
Very High at or above 190 mg/dL
Borderline High 150 to 199 mg/dL
High 200 to 499 mg/dL
Very High at or above 500 mg/dL
Firstly What Is Cholesterol
Cholesterol is an essential type of fat that’s carried in the blood.
All cells in the body need cholesterol it’s an essential part of cell walls in our bodies and has important roles, including to produce some hormones, maintain healthy nerve cells and in the synthesis of vitamin D.
Your body needs a small amount of cholesterol to function, but an imbalance between different types of cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of heart disease, one of the leading chronic diseases in Australia today.
About ¾ of the cholesterol in your body is made in the liver and a small amount may come from the food you eat. Various factors affect blood cholesterol levels including your diet and lifestyle, body weight and genes.
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How Can You Prevent High Cholesterol Levels And Coronary Heart Disease
Prevention methods are very much the same as treatment methods. First, dont smoke. If you do smoke, make plans to quit now. Find ways to add physical activity to each of your days. Take steps to keep your weight in a healthy range. Eat well. Consider following the Mediterranean diet. It is the only diet proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. Take care of any other medical conditions you might have by following your healthcare providers advice and instructions. Learn to really relax and calm down.
Why Cholesterol Affects Women Differently
In general, women have higher levels of HDL cholesterol than men because the female sex hormone estrogen seems to boost this good cholesterol. But, like so much else, everything changes at menopause. At this point, many women experience a change in their cholesterol levels total and LDL cholesterol rise and HDL cholesterol falls. This is why women who had favorable cholesterol values during their childbearing years might end up with elevated cholesterol later in life. Of course, genetics and lifestyle factors can play big roles, too.
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When To Consider Cholesterol Medication
If lifestyle changes aren’t lowering your cholesterol levels, or if you’re at risk for having a heart attack or stroke, your doctor may prescribe medications called statins. These are perhaps the most effective cholesterol-lowering drugs, according to the AHA.
Statins work by preventing your liver from producing LDL cholesterol, and helping it remove LDL cholesterol that’s already in your blood. Randomized trials have found that statins reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by about 25% each year for every 39 mg/dL of cholesterol.
While statins are generally considered safe, they may have some of the following side effects:
- Muscle or joint soreness, pain, or weakness
Overall, the benefits of statins far outweigh the risk of side effects, the AHA notes in a 2018 report.
“From what we know from long-term studies, they appear to be very safe,” says cardiologist Eugene Yang, MD, medical director of the UW Medicine Eastside Specialty Center and chair-elect of the ACC Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Council.
But statins won’t lower cholesterol on their own, so it’s important to also adopt the healthy lifestyle changes mentioned above. “One of the things that’s really important is that patients don’t use the medications as a way to justify eating unhealthily,” Yang says.
What Is A Good Cholesterol Level
To understand cholesterol levels, it is first helpful to understand how cholesterol is measured. Cholesterol is not floating around in your bloodstream by itself. If it was, it would just be globs of fat that would not be able to use. For cholesterol to be useful, it attaches to proteins before it enters the blood. These combinations of cholesterol and proteins are called lipoproteins. There are several types of lipoproteins, but the two that receive the most attention are:
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What To Know About Triglycerides
In addition to cholesterol, you might hear about your triglycerides, another kind of fat found in the bloodstream. Women should pay particular attention to this. A high level of triglycerides seems to predict an even greater risk for heart disease in women compared with men, says Michos.
When you take in more calories than you need, your body converts the extra calories into triglycerides, which are then stored in fat cells. Triglycerides are used by the body for energy, but people with excess triglycerides have higher risk of medical problems, including cardiovascular disease. Drinking a lot of alcohol and eating foods containing simple carbohydrates , saturated fats and trans fats contributes to high triglycerides. High levels may also be caused by health conditions such as diabetes, an underactive thyroid, obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome or kidney disease.
Triglycerides also circulate in the bloodstream on particles that may contribute to plaque formation. Many people with high triglycerides have other risk factors for atherosclerosis, including high LDL levels or low HDL levels, or abnormal blood sugar levels. Genetic studies have also shown some association between triglycerides and cardiovascular disease.
High Cholesterol: Prevention, Treatment and Research
About Your Cholesterol Result
A cholesterol test can measure:
- total cholesterol the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood, including both “good” and “bad” cholesterol
- good cholesterol this makes you less likely to have heart problems or a stroke
- bad cholesterol this makes you more likely to have heart problems or a stroke
- triglycerides a fatty substance similar to bad cholesterol
When you get your result, you may just be told your total cholesterol.
You might be able to get separate results for your good and bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Ask your doctor or nurse.
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Cholesterol And Heart Disease: Understanding The Connection
For years, it had been believed that theres more or less a straight line between cholesterol and heart disease but recent research suggests that this relationship may be more complex.
A Minneapolis Heart Foundation study, published in April 2017 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that many people who have heart attacks donthave high cholesterol. The link between cholesterol and heart disease is weak, says Dr. Roberts, who places a large portion of the blame for the persistence of that link on pharmaceutical advertising for statin drugs. Statins dolower cholesterol levels, she says, but atherosclerosis still progresses due to factors like age, poor diet, smoking, and so on.
In addition, a review of studies of cholesterol and cardiovascular disease published in August 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that no rigorous connection could be drawn between dietary cholesterol intake and the risk of CVD.
In contrast, the results of long-term research, published in September 2017 in the journal Circulation, concluded that statin use in men with high LDL cholesterol who had no other risk factors for heart disease reduced their rates of coronary heart disease death, cardiovascular death, and all-cause mortality by 28 percent over 20 years.
Furthermore, a study of more than 400,000 people published in December 2019 in The Lancet found a strong link between non-HDL cholesterol and long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.
Natural Remedies And Lowering Cholesterol
Its very important to talk to your health professional before using any:
- natural remedies
- or complementary therapies.
Sometimes they can do more harm than good. They may interact with any medication that youre taking, which can be dangerous. They can also make your medication less effective. Your doctor needs to know everything that you are taking to ensure that the combination is safe.
If youve been prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication, make sure you take it as directed by your doctor. This is one of the most effective ways to keep your cholesterol levels down.
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General Information And Causes
Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance that is circulated in the blood. It is essential for your good health as it helps to build cell walls and is used in the manufacture of some hormones.
However, when there is more cholesterol circulating in the blood than the body needs, it can build up on your artery walls, eventually leading to narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This process is known as atherosclerosis and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. More than half of New Zealanders admitted to hospital with a heart attack have high cholesterol levels.
This risk of a cardiovascular health event increases when high blood cholesterol is accompanied by other risk factors such as high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease.
Your liver produces most of the cholesterol circulating in your blood. A diet high in saturated fat stimulates the liver to produce more cholesterol so the saturated fat content of the food you eat is likely to have a strong influence on your blood cholesterol levels.
A small proportion of your blood cholesterol is derived from dietary cholesterol – i.e. cholesterol that is already present in animal foods you might consume .
Other factors that may influence your blood cholesterol levels include:
- Genetic susceptibility to high cholesterol
What Is High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made by the liver and obtained through the diet. It can be found in the fats in your blood. High cholesterol is when you have high amounts of cholesterol in the blood.
Cholesterol is essential in order for your body to continue building healthy cells, however having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. This is because it can lead to a build-up of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, which overtime can make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries and consequently to your heart.
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Ldl Cholesterol: ‘bad’ Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, is the type that tends to deposit on the walls of the arteries. White blood cells combine with the LDL cholesterol, forming artery-narrowing plaque, which restricts blood flow. The optimal level of LDL cholesterol for most people is 100 mg/dL or lower. If you have heart disease, you may need to strive for LDL levels of 70 mg/dL or lower.
How Can I Lower My Cholesterol
There are two main ways to lower your cholesterol:
- Heart-healthy lifestyle changes, which include:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. Examples include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet and the DASH Eating Plan.
- Weight Management. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Physical Activity. Everyone should get regular physical activity .
- Managing stress. Research has shown that chronic stress can sometimes raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
- Quitting smoking.Quitting smoking can raise your HDL cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries, having more HDL can help to lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Drug Treatment. If lifestyle changes alone do not lower your cholesterol enough, you may also need to take medicines. There are several types of cholesterol medicines available, including statins. The medicines work in different ways and can have different side effects. Talk to your health care provider about which one is right for you. While you are taking medicines to lower your cholesterol, you should continue with the lifestyle changes.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
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Dietary Tips To Avoid Cholesterol
The most important thing you can do to reduce your cholesterol level is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You should try to:
- Increase the amount and variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods you have each day.
- Choose low or reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and other dairy products or have added calcium soy drinks.
- Choose lean meat .
- Limit fatty meats, including sausages and salami, and choose leaner sandwich meats like turkey breast or cooked lean chicken.
- Have fish at least twice a week.
- Replace butter and dairy blends with polyunsaturated margarines.
- Include foods in your diet that are rich in soluble fibre and healthy fats, such as nuts, legumes and seeds.
- Limit cheese and ice cream to twice a week.
Other storage fats that are transported in blood lipoproteins include triglycerides. When present in high concentrations in the blood, this fat is also a risk for heart attack. Some foods will affect the cholesterol level or the triglyceride level and some will affect both.
Signs And Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Typically, high cholesterol doesnt cause any symptoms until it causes a medical emergency, like a heart attack or stroke. These heart-disease-related events dont occur until high cholesterol levels have led to fatty plaque building up in the arteries. In turn, this leads to a narrowing of the arteries and a change in the makeup of the arterial lining, also known as heart disease.
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Do You Need To Lower Your Cholesterol And Triglycerides
Your doctor should look at your results in relation to any other risk factors for heart disease you may have such as high blood pressure, being overweight or smoking, as well as other health conditions such as diabetes.
How To Tell If Foods Are Low Or High Cholesterol
Many foods you buy are labeled with nutrition facts, making it easy to detect and limit high-cholesterol foods. But what about foods you purchase that don’t have a label, like deli meat or prepared foods?
Understanding general principles about high-cholesterol foods can help you determine which non-labeled foods might be high in cholesterol.
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Types Of Cholesterol And How They Work In Your Body
Cholesterol is carried through the circulatory system on two lipoproteins: high-density lipoproteins , often referred to as good cholesterol, and low-density lipoproteins , also called bad cholesterol.
LDL is termed bad cholesterol because when there is too much of it circulating in the blood , it can eventually build up in the form of plaque on the walls of your arteries. This is called atherosclerosis. Over time, this narrows the arteries and raises the risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease, notes the AHA.
A high level of triglycerides the most common type of fat in your body can also lead to fatty buildups in your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, if combined with high LDL or low HDL cholesterol levels, per the AHA.
If Cholesterol Is Necessary Why Do We Have To Worry About How Much We Have
Having enough cholesterol to meet your needs is important. Having too much cholesterol can cause problems. If your cholesterol levels are high, the condition is called hypercholesterolemia. If your cholesterol levels are low, the condition is called hypocholesterolemia. It is not common to have cholesterol levels that are too low, but it can happen.
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Living With High Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, you are twice as likely to develop heart disease. That is why it is important to have your cholesterol levels checked, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. Reducing your LDL bad cholesterol through good diet, exercise, and medicine can make a positive impact on your overall health.
What Do Your Cholesterol Results Mean
When you have a cholesterol test, it is really important that your healthcare professional explains the results to you to prevent unnecessary worry and confusion.
Its not just your total cholesterol thats important and your results will include different types of cholesterol. If you are only given your total cholesterol, ask for a break-down of the other numbers. Its possible to have a healthy total cholesterol number but an unhealthy balance of the different types of cholesterol.
As a minimum, you should be given your total cholesterol and HDL numbers, then you can work out your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol .
You might also have your triglycerides tested, these are another type of blood fat which are linked to heart disease.
Ask for a print out of your results if you are not able to speak to your GP, nurse or pharmacist.
Your results should include:
- Total cholesterol
This is sometimes written as ‘serum cholesterol’ or ‘TC’ and refers to your overall level of cholesterol.
- Non-HDL cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- TC:HDL ratio
You might be given a TC:HDL ratio, which is the ratio of HDL compared to the total cholesterol. If not, you can work it out from your HDL and total cholesterol numbers. This should be as low as possible. Above 6 is considered high.
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