What Causes High Cholesterol
First and foremost, it helps to clear up common misconceptions about in the first place. For several decades, a wide-held belief has been that dietary cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease . This led government-mandated dietary recommendations to limit cholesterol intake to no more than 300 milligrams per day for healthy adults. However, based on recent evidence, there are some serious challenges regarding this current dietary restriction, resulting in the removal of the recommendation in the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
While factors like genetics, inactivity, diabetes, stress and hypothyroidism can all impact cholesterol levels, a poor diet is the No. 1 cause for unhealthy high cholesterol. Unfortunately, the standard American or Western diet is highly inflammatory, which elevates LDL and lowers HDL in most cases the opposite of what we want.
How exactly does inflammation cause cholesterol levels to rise?
Cholesterol itself wouldnt be nearly as dangerous without inflammation. Inflammation is the primary cause of atherosclerosis, the hardening and stiffening of arteries that accompanies plaque deposits and in turn produces even more inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of most diseases, and heart disease is no exception.
The Dietary Guidelines For Americans Summarized
Heres a summary of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
Avoid industrial trans fats.
Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, and aim to get less than 10% of your calories from saturated fats.
Reduce calories from solid animal fats with plant oils when possible.
Prioritize seafood , lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes , nuts, seeds, and soy products over red and processed meats as sources of protein.
What Kind Of Food Should You Avoid If You Have High Cholesterol
Due to the abundance of food available, it is often difficult to find out which of the products you buy are really healthy for your body. However, if you want to watch your level of cholesterol, you should definitely avoid some Foods.
For example, meat that is too fatty is always a danger. In addition, crustaceans and shellfish should be avoided. Sausages with a high fat content can also lead to an increase in the level of cholesterol. Dairy products with high fat content are also a trap, including cheese, butter, milk and cream. Sweet pastries, sweetened drinks and sweets in general are all not always healthy for many reasons including in relation to cholesterol balance. Fast food and convenience foods are also very high on the no-no list.
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Diet To Reduce Cholesterol
Making a few changes to the diet you follow on a daily basis can reduce cholesterol levels to a great extent. Why resort to drug therapy, when you can achieve the same results by going on a TLC diet instead? A TLC or Therapeutic Lifestyle Change Diet is a diet low in trans and saturated fats and high in soluble fibres and proteins. The TLC diet is an effective way to reduce cholesterol levels. If you get on this diet, you are supposed to consume less than 7% of your total calorie requirement from saturated fats and intake dietary cholesterol below 200 milligrams. You are encouraged to up your fruit, whole grain, vegetable, poultry, fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy product intake as part of the TLC diet.
Individuals on the TLC diet are advised to only consume as many calories as they require, to avoid unnecessary weight gain. You are asked to maintain a healthy weight on this diet. Soluble fibers, which have LDL-lowering capabilities are advised for consumption as part of the diet.
Cholesterol reducing foods such as high fibre food, I.e. bran, oatmeal, olive oil, pear, apples and food with plant sterol additives are healthy food items that you should include in your daily diet to keep the problem at bay. Ideally, one must follow a balanced diet to ensure no unnecessary weight gain so that you can keep your cholesterol levels down. Learn more about the ideal diet plan for you here.
How Much Saturated Fat Is Too Much
No more than a third of your energy should come from fat, which means a maximum of 70g per day for a woman and 90g for a man. Saturated fats should make up no more than a third of this, so a maximun of 20g for a woman and 30g for a man.
Saturated fats are found in animal products, such as red meat and dairy, and foods that are made with them, such as pastries, cakes, chocolate and biscuits. They’re also found in some plant foods, including coconut oil and palm oil.
To cut back on saturated fat, replace foods that are high in them with foods containing more unsaturated fat, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil and rapeseed oil. If you’re not following the vegan Portfolio Diet, oily fish such as salmon and mackerel is a good alternative to red meat.
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What Causes High Cholesterol & How To Lower It:
High cholesterol can be caused by several factorsincluding family history. Lack of exercise, being overweight, an unhealthy diet , plus smoking can all play a role in raising your cholesterol. According to the CDC, a total cholesterol of over 200 mg/dL is considered high. However, there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, so be sure to have a discussion with your medical provider about getting your levels checked. Although high cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms, side effects of high cholesterol include heart attack and stroke, so it’s important to practice prevention and discuss your risk factors at your annual visit.
To reduce risk, there are several lifestyle changes we can make, like increasing exercise and focusing on a diet that is high in fiber and healthy unsaturated fats , while limiting excess sugar and saturated or trans fats. Plus, losing weight if you’re overweight can positively improve your cholesterol, so we set this plan at 1,500 calories, which is a level where most people will lose weight. We also included modifications for 1,200 or 2,000 calories a day, depending on your needs.
Add These Foods To Lower Ldl Cholesterol
Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
1. Oats. An easy first step to lowering your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber.
2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.
3. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.
4. Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.
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Eating For Lower Cholesterol
Healthy eating can make a huge difference to your cholesterol levels and your heart health, whether your cholesterol has crept up over the years or you have a genetic condition. It will improve your health in other ways too, helping to lower your blood pressure, prevent diabetes and maintain a healthy weight.
Work With Your Doctor On A Lower Cholesterol Plan
Lowering your cholesterol doesnt mean going it alone. Your primary care doctor is a helpful partner along your journey.
Your doctor can work with you to create an action plan just for you one that combines diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes to help you lower and manage your cholesterol.
For example, losing weight and quitting smoking can be big helpers for lowering cholesterol. Quitting smoking can raise your good HDL cholesterol levels, and losing weight can lower your bad LDL cholesterol levels significantly.
But these two tasks arent easy. Fortunately, your primary care doctor can be a great resource to help you get started and find practical ways to stick with it. Plus, help with quitting smoking and losing weight may already be covered if you have health insurance.
Whether you want to quit smoking, lose weight or just learn more about how your personal health would benefit from lower cholesterol levels, regular check-ins with your doctor are key. They can also perform cholesterol tests the only way to actually measure cholesterol to check your progress and help you make adjustments based on the results.
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Five Ways To Lower Your Ldl On A Keto Or Low
Has your cholesterol increased on a low-carb diet? Do you fear that you may need to abandon this way of eating and its potential benefits?
Here are five ways you can reduce your total and LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining a keto or low-carb lifestyle. Consider trying them in this order.
1. Avoid Bulletproof coffee
Bulletproof coffee refers to adding butter, coconut fat or MCT oil in coffee. Avoid drinking significant amounts of fat at all when youre not hungry. This alone can sometimes normalize elevated cholesterol levels.23
2. Eat only when hungry
Only eat when hungry and consider adding intermittent fasting. This may reduce cholesterol levels. Although most research on intermittent fasting and LDL reduction come from low-quality observational studies during Ramadan, a recent pilot study of time restricted eating showed a significant reduction in LDL.24 While we need more data, this remains a promising intervention.
3. Eat foods higher in unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats
Foods higher in unsaturated fats include fats like olive oil, fatty fish and avocados. Replacing sources of saturated fat with these foods may be enough to lower LDL cholesterol.
However, remember that many unsaturated oils are highly processed. As with food, we recommend focusing on the least processed oils like olive oil, macadamia oil, and avocado oil.
4. Eat LDL-lowering keto-friendly foods
These low-carb plant foods may help lower cholesterol levels somewhat:
5. Eat more carbs
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 Is Cholesterol Measured
Most people with high cholesterol feel perfectly well and often have no symptoms. The best way to find out if your cholesterol is high is to have a blood test .
Visit your GP to determine whether you need to lower your cholesterol level and what action to take.
GPs can also do a heart health check, that calculates your heart disease and stroke risk.
Foods That Lower Your Cholesterol
Some foods can actively help to lower your cholesterol and they all work in different ways. Try to include these foods in your meals whenever you can:
1. Oats and barley
Eating whole grain foods reduces your risk of heart disease. Oats and barley are extra special because they are high in a type of soluble fibre called ‘beta glucan’. Beta glucan helps to lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood2,3.
Tip: Flavoured oat products like ‘Quick Oats’ often contain added salt and/or sugar. Choose products that contain 100% oats as they’re closest to how theyre found in nature.
2. Vegetables and fruit
Eating a variety of colourful vegetables and fruit everyday can help protect you against heart disease, stroke and some cancers4,5. Many vegetables and fruit are high in soluble fibre which helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol and lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Tip: Leave the skins on vegetables like pumpkin, kmara and carrot to maximise your intake of fibre. Use orange and lemon peel in dressings and sauces.
3. Foods rich in heart-healthy fats
Eating plenty of foods that contain heart-healthy mono and poly-unsaturated fats increases the levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in your blood.
These foods contain heart-healthy fats.
- Vegetable oils and spreads
Eating these foods instead of foods high in saturated fat improves your cholesterol. Itll reduce your risk of heart disease too6.
4. Legumes and beans
6. Soy products
7. Plant sterols
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Curb Cholesterol Not Flavor
Itâs no secret that certain foods can help you lower your LDL cholesterol, which causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries that leads to heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. But what may surprise you is that many of these foods are delicious and easy to incorporate into your everyday meals without sacrificing flavor or fun.
What Nuts Are High In Fiber
Aside from being a source of unsaturated fats, nuts are packed with other nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that make them a vital ingredient for your diet.
In particular, nuts are exceptionally high in fiber.
Fiber is carbohydrates that the body cannot break down into sugar molecules and pass through the stomach undigested.
Thanks to this property, fiber helps the body regulate and use sugars.
Fiber is essential for your digestive systems health, so you need to eat enough fiber-rich foods for a healthy lifestyle, which include fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and cereals.
All nuts are high in fiber compared to other foods.
Check out the fiber content of a handful of nuts :
- Hazelnuts 2.9g
- Almonds 3.5g
- Pistachios 2.9g
Of course, since you should only include about a handful of nuts a day, you should also eat other low-calorie foods such as vegetables.
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How Is Cholesterol Transported In Your Body
Cholesterol is absorbed from your digestive tract or produced by your liver and circulated throughout your bloodstream, where it can be used by cells as needed. The remaining cholesterol then returns to the liver to be converted into bile acids or used for other purposes.
Importantly, cholesterol doesnt travel around your bloodstream on its own. As a hydrophobic substance, it must be packaged within lipoproteins to move around the bloodstream.
Think of lipoproteins as boats needed to safely carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. When we talk about blood cholesterol levels, were referring to the amount of cholesterol contained in different lipoprotein particles .
In addition to cholesterol, these lipoprotein particles also contain special proteins called apolipoproteins, triglycerides, and other compounds.
- Cholesterol packaged in lipoproteins that contain apolipoprotein B100 is referred to as LDL cholesterol, or LDL-C .5
- Cholesterol packaged in lipoproteins that contain apolipoprotein A is referred to as HDL cholesterol, or HDL-C .
Despite what weve all heard, theres actually no such thing as good or bad cholesterol there is only one type of cholesterol. Your LDL and HDL values refer to how much cholesterol is carried in your HDL and LDL lipoprotein particles. In fact, the same cholesterol is continuously transferred among these and other types of lipoproteins as they make their way through the bloodstream.
What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels
The recommended targets for cholesterol vary slightly among different countries and health agencies. The US National Institutes of Health website lists the following optimal cholesterol and triglyceride values for people at low risk for heart disease, measured after a fast of 9-12 hours:
- Total cholesterol:< 200 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol:< 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol:> 40 mg/dL for men, > 50 mg/dL for women
- Triglycerides:< 150 mg/dL
LDL levels > 160 mg/dL are considered high, and levels 190 mg/dL and above are considered very high.
Many factors can affect your blood cholesterol, including genetics, hormonal changes, injury, and certain health conditions. For instance, people with untreated hypothyroidism often have elevated cholesterol.
A persons diet can also influence cholesterol levels sometimes significantly.9
Some would argue that since these cut-off points are based on epidemiologic studies, they likely do not apply the same to all individuals regardless of their baseline metabolic health and overall health. For instance, there are data that show people with low LDL levels can have heart attacks and people with high LDL can live long lives.10
The point is that LDL levels should be regarded as one of many variables for evaluating cardiovascular risk, using an individuals metabolic status and other risk factors to adjust that risk assessment up or down.
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Extra Virgin Olive Oil
One of the most important foods in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil.
One five-year study gave older adults at risk of heart disease 4 tablespoons a day of extra virgin olive oil alongside a Mediterranean diet.
The olive oil group had a 30% lower risk of major heart events, such as stroke and heart attack, compared to people who followed a low-fat diet .
Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, the kind that may help raise good HDL and lower bad LDL cholesterol.
It is also a source of polyphenols, some of which reduce the inflammation that can drive heart disease .