High Cholesterol: Nutritionist Reveals Top Prevention Tips
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High cholesterol means that there is too much of a fatty substance in your blood, which can settle along blood vessel walls, hardening in plaques, that can narrow the passageway of blood. When there is less space for blood to travel through, the heart muscle has to work harder to get blood to circulate around the body. Consequently, blood pressure is likely to increase and the risk of heart disease spikes.
Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Often, there are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You could have high cholesterol and not know it.
If you have high cholesterol, your body may store the extra cholesterol in your arteries. These are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. A buildup of cholesterol in your arteries is known as plaque. Over time, plaque can become hard and make your arteries narrow. Large deposits of plaque can completely block an artery. Cholesterol plaques can also break apart, leading to formation of a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood.
A blocked artery to the heart can cause a heart attack. A blocked artery to your brain can cause a stroke.
Many people dont discover that they have high cholesterol until they suffer one of these life-threatening events. Some people find out through routine check-ups that include blood tests.
Medication May Be Needed
For some people, diet and lifestyle changes are not enough. High blood cholesterol levels often have a genetic component. Some people inherit altered genes that cause high cholesterol and this cannot usually be changed sufficiently by lifestyle or diet.
If you are at risk of coronary heart disease and your LDL cholesterol level doesnt drop after scrupulous attention to diet, your doctor may recommend medications to force your blood LDL levels down. Cell cholesterol levels, however, remain normal, so lowering blood cholesterol has no effect on most cell metabolic processes.
Some people get muscle aches from statins, which are the most commonly used medication to lower blood cholesterol. However, diet and exercise will still be important, even if you are taking medication. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats cardiovascular disease.
Why High Cholesterol Matters
High cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death in the U.S. High levels of LDL cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries, narrowing the arteries and restricting blood flow. If some of this plaque breaks off and gets stuck in a narrowed artery, it can block the artery and cut off blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in heart attack or stroke.
The American Heart Association Recommends
All adults age 20 or older should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. If certain factors put you at high risk, or if you already have heart disease, your doctor may ask you to check it more often. Work with your doctor to determine your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke and create a plan to reduce your risk.
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Why Ldl Cholesterol Is Bad
The chief issue when there are excessive levels of LDL is the formation of plaque within the walls of arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. This substance stiffens, narrows, and hardens the walls of the arteries, which pump oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Not only does this directly disrupt this process, it can lead to plaque ruptures, which cause different types of blood cells to come rushing towards the exposed ruptured plaque, stick to it, and acutely clog the artery. The acute clogging can cause a heart attack or stroke depending upon which artery is clogged.
Constriction or blockages of blood flow lead to a veritable cascade of serious health conditions. When they occur in cardiac arteries , you can develop CAD, which can lead to heart attack. High LDL is also associated with diseases of other arteries, as in PAD and carotid artery disease. Blockages in carotid arteries from CAD can lead to a stroke, while blockages in peripheral arteries are more likely to cause pain in the arms or legs.
What Are The Different Types Of Cholesterol
There are two types: high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein . As a general rule, HDL is considered good cholesterol, while LDL is considered bad. This is because HDL carries cholesterol to your liver, where it can be removed from your bloodstream before it builds up in your arteries. LDL, on the other hand, takes cholesterol directly to your arteries. This can result in atherosclerosis, a plaque buildup that can even cause heart attack and stroke.
Triglycerides make up the third component of cholesterol and act as unused calories that are stored as fat in the blood. Eating more calories than you burn can cause triglycerides to build up in the bloodstream, increasing your risk for heart attacks.
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Consider What You Eat:
It is said that we are what we eat. While not to be taken literally, it certainly has a grain of truth. The food you eat does play a role in your health and your cholesterol levels. Fruits and vegetables are natures bounty and play a significant role in keeping your body healthy and your cholesterol at an appropriate level.
When we eat foods that are high in trans fatty acids these are also known as trans fats, our HDL cholesterol is lowered, and, at the same time, your LDL levels increase. The trick is not to eat any foods that are high in trans fats. They are typically what we call junk food, such as packaged foods, those high in preservatives and added salt. Included in this list are all the naughty but nice foods like baked goods cookies, pies and cakes.
The list continues with food such as French fries, doughnuts and fried chicken. Additionally, certain oils, such as palm kernel, coconut and palm oils also contain large amounts of saturated fat. (Saturated fat generally comes from the food we get from animals such as meat.
Trans fats are typically manufactured.) Try a healthier option monounsaturated fat which is found in olive, canola and peanut oils are far better than saturated fat. Other foods that are a good choice in healthy fats are nuts and fish. .
What Kind Of Test Measures Cholesterol
Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years. Your healthcare provider will order a blood test that will indicate how much cholesterol is carried in your bloodstream. This test will give your cholesterol levels. Your provider might also order what is called a lipid panel or a lipid profile. The panel gives you the following numbers:
- Total cholesterol.
- Non-HDL cholesterol.
- Ratio between cholesterol and HDL.
There are advanced tests that break down the size and shapes of LDL cholesterol levels, and also give the LDL particle number, but those are not normally ordered. Some test makers say that the more advanced tests are better at indicating who is at risk for heart disease, but most providers still feel that the usual tests are adequate.
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High Triglycerides With Low Hdl There Is Medical Treatment Available
While making positive and important lifestyle changes are definitely the best way to improve your HDL level, there are medications available that could help. Most of the prescribed medications for high cholesterol also work to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. However, some of these medications can also improve your HDL level. The 2 most used to treat low levels of HDL cholesterol include niacin and fibrates
- Niacin this is a member of the B vitamin family. It is known to boost low levels of HDL cholesterol if it is taken in prescription strength. The typically used niacin name includes Niaspin.
- Fibrates or fibrate acid derivatives these medications are effective in lowering triglyceride levels and lower LDL cholesterol. However, they are also used to treat people who have high triglycerides, as well as low HDL cholesterol levels in people who cannot take niacin. These are medications such as gemfibrozil and fenofibrate .
What Does High Cholesterol Mean
While cholesterol often gets a negative reputation attached to it, its not inherently bad. However, this can be problematic when the amount of cholesterol circulating within your blood becomes higher than recommended.
Ideally, you want to have a high ratio of HDL to LDL to help keep your total cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
The only way to know that you have high cholesterol is to have a blood test, called a lipid panel, done by your physician.
A fasting cholesterol test, generally done in the morning following a night of not eating, is the most accurate way to collect these numbers. A fasting test is necessary because a single meal can alter your cholesterol levels, and you dont want inaccurate readings.
A blood cholesterol test will tell you the following markers: total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Healthy parameters for these are listed in the table below for the average adult.
|Less than 150 mg/dL|
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How Much Cholesterol Do We Need
Cholesterol is in every cell of your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and help your brain, skin, and other organs work the way they should. But too much cholesterol in the blood can clog the arteries that carry blood around your body.
Cholesterol that builds up in a persons blood vessels over many years could lead to:
- a heart attack that can damage the heart
- a stroke that can damage the brain
Cholesterol can start to build up in childhood and teen years. Doctors can find out what your cholesterol level is by ordering a blood test.
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Effects Of High Cholesterol Levels
The liver is the main processing centre for cholesterol and dietary fat. When we eat animal fats, the liver transports the fat, together with cholesterol in the form of lipoproteins, into our bloodstream.
Too much cholesterol circulating within LDL in our bloodstream leads to fatty deposits developing in the arteries. This causes the vessels to narrow and they can eventually become blocked. This can lead to heart disease and stroke.
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Yes Your Cholesterol Can Be Too Low
I recently saw on Facebook a sponsored healthy, plant-based meal delivery service ad with some interesting benefits. The ad featured a woman who was giving thanks to this service for providing healthy food for her husband whose cholesterol level was now at 110.
My husbands cholesterol is down to 110. Its worth every penny to have more happy years together, she said.
Of course, I was happy to learn that she was happy her husband is healthier, but my visceral reaction was to question whether a cholesterol level of 110 was healthy.
Cholesterol numbers are measured in milligrams per deciliter . So the appropriate reference above should have been 110 mg/dL. We are all use to hearing about high cholesterol levels well in excess of 200 mg/dL, because high cholesterol puts us at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. But we really hear less about the health consequences of significantly lower cholesterol levels.
However, it is possible for cholesterol to be too low. And there is credible evidence showing that very low cholesterol levels may put us at increased risk for other diseases, like depression, cancer and anxiety.
To understand the effects of high or low cholesterol, it is important to understand exactly what cholesterol is and how it works within our bodies.
And our bodies, mostly the liver, makes all of the cholesterol we need.
Having too much cholesterol can put us in dangerous health territory.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Should I Stop Drinking If I Have High Cholesterol
Cutting down on alcohol will help your liver to work better at removing bad cholesterol. It may also improve your heart health in other ways by helping you lose weight and lower your blood pressure.
Our top tips for drinking alcohol are to:
- drink less than 14 units of alcohol a week
- have a few days each week where you dont drink at all
- avoid binge drinking by drinking half what you usually would
- order a small glass of wine or half a pint of beer.
Read more of our advice on alcohol.By making some of these small changes you should see your cholesterol levels go down.
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What Are Hdl Ldl And Vldl
HDL, LDL, and VLDL are lipoproteins. They are a combination of fat and protein. The lipids need to be attached to the proteins so they can move through the blood. Different types of lipoproteins have different purposes:
- HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It is sometimes called “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.
- LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. It is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol because a high LDL level leads to the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
- VLDL stands for very low-density lipoprotein. Some people also call VLDL a “bad” cholesterol because it too contributes to the buildup of plaque in your arteries. But VLDL and LDL are different VLDL mainly carries triglycerides and LDL mainly carries cholesterol.
What Does The Term Total Cholesterol Mean
The term total cholesterol refers to the total amount of the different kinds of cholesterol in your blood. One kind of cholesterol is the LDL cholesterol. Another kind is the HDL cholesterol. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. LDL is the bad cholesterol. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. HDL is the good cholesterol.
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What Are The Dangers Of Low Cholesterol
High LDL levels may be lowered by medications, such as statins, as well as regular exercise and a healthy diet. When your cholesterol drops due to these reasons, there usually isnt a problem. In fact, lower cholesterol is better than high cholesterol most of the time. Its when your cholesterol falls for no obvious reason that you should take notice and discuss it with your healthcare provider.
While the exact effects of low cholesterol on health are still being studied, researchers are concerned about how low cholesterol appears to negatively affect mental health.
An 1999 Duke University study of healthy young women found that those with low cholesterol were more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers suggest that because cholesterol is involved in making hormones and vitamin D, low levels may affect the health of your brain. Vitamin D is important for cell growth. If brain cells arent healthy, you may experience anxiety or depression. The connection between low cholesterol and mental health still isnt completely understood and is being researched.
A 2012 study presented at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions found a possible relationship between low cholesterol and cancer risk. The process that affects cholesterol levels could affect cancer, but more research is needed on the topic.
What Should My Cholesterol Levels Be
Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.
As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:
- 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
As a general guide, LDL levels should be:
- 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk
An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L. A lower level of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.
Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated. This is your total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. Generally, this ratio should be below four, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is only one risk factor. The level at which specific treatment is required will depend on whether other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are also present.
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”good” And ”bad” Cholesterol What Does It All Mean
There are several different types of cholesterol:
- LDL-C : LDL cholesterol is also known as the “bad cholesterol.” When there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, it builds up on the inside of the blood vessel walls, making it more difficult for blood to flow freely. This increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
- HDL-C : HDL cholesterol is also known as the “good cholesterol.” HDL cholesterol helps clear LDL cholesterol away from blood vessel walls, decreasing the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
- VLDL-C : VLDL cholesterol is made in the liver. It is changed into LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Triglycerides are not the same thing as cholesterol. They are another type of fat often found in the body. TG is tested at the same time as cholesterol. TG can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. TG can also lower the levels of HDL cholesterol.
Total cholesterol can be measured directly from a blood test. It is calculated using the amounts of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in your blood.
Non-HDL-cholesterol measures all types of cholesterol other than HDL-C. It is equal to the total cholesterol minus the HDL cholesterol. It is a good measure of how much harmful cholesterol a person has in their blood.
Wondering about your own cholesterol levels? Talk to your doctor about getting tested.