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 You Need To Know About High Cholesterol
High cholesterol is increasingly common with age and can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and other health problems.
High cholesterol is a condition that occurs when levels of cholesterol in your blood are elevated enough to cause health problems such as heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
High cholesterol sometimes known as hypercholesterolemia is painless and doesn’t cause any symptoms.
Cholesterol And Healthy Eating
What we eat has an impact on our cholesterol levels and can help reduce our risk of disease. Try to eat a wide variety of foods from each of the five food groups. Not only does this help to maintain a healthy and interesting diet, but it provides essential nutrients to the body.
The Heart Foundation recommends:
- Plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains.
- A variety of healthy protein sources , legumes , nuts and seeds. Smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry can also be included in a heart healthy diet. If choosing red meat, make sure it is lean and limit to 1-3 times a week.
- Unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. Those with high blood cholesterol should choose reduced fat varieties.
- Healthy fat choices nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking
- Herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt.
Also, be mindful on how much you are eating and whether you are filling up on unhealthy foods. Portion sizes have increased over time and many of us are eating more than we need which can lead to obesity and increase our risk of cardiovascular disease.
Ideally, a healthy plate would include servings of ¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrates and ½ vegetables.
Serving size can vary depending on age, gender and specific nutrition needs.
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What Is Considered A Normal Cholesterol Level
Its important to understand what is considered normal for cholesterol levels, as you will no doubt have your cholesterol tested many times. In fact, you should be having your cholesterol tested as part of your yearly physical exam. Dont be fooled if youre a skinny body type, either. The sneaky thing about cholesterol is that you can be a slim person and still have high cholesterol.4
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per tenth-liter of blood. To determine your healthy total cholesterol levels, your HDL and LDL are added together.
This reading should be below 200 mg/dL. You can break that down further and say that your LDL cholesterol should always be less than 160 mg/dl, 130 mg/dL, or 100 mg/dL depending on your risk factors.
These risk factors could include a family history of heart disease, menopause, and others. Meanwhile, your HDL cholesterol should sit around 35 mg/dL, but preferably higher.5
The higher your HDL level, the more you are protected against LDL cholesterol and the problems it can cause.
Why You Should Avoid Cholesterol
Cholesterol circulates throughout the bloodstream, and too much of it can have negative effects on your body, especially your heart. High levels of “bad” cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease or stroke.
When you have too much LDL cholesterol in your system, it can form plaque, which is a buildup on the walls of the blood vessels. This buildup narrows the blood vessels, which blocks the healthy flow of blood in the body and can potentially cause a heart attack or other problems. For this reason, experts recommend consuming less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day.
Cholesterol also travels within the central nervous system and is important for normal brain functioning. Too much of it, however, may have negative consequences for learning and memory. Reducing cholesterol through the use of drugs called statins may improve memory, but more research is needed in this regard.
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What Is The Difference Between Good And Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is classified as good or bad and its important to understand the distinction when choosing your diet. Cholesterol travels through the body in two types of lipoproteins:
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that we limit saturated fats to less than 10% of our daily calorie consumption. This means restricting our intake of bad cholesterol.
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.
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The Cold Hard Facts On Cholesterol
According to the CDC, more than 102 million American adults have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL. More than 35 million of these have levels exceeding 240 mg/dL. Which puts them at high risk for heart disease.10
These are frightening statistics. Its obvious that many Americans dont know that theyre at risk or dont know how to change that risk.
If youre carrying a little too much weight, know that youre eating a poor diet, or have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, you should see your doctor immediately for a very simple cholesterol test. Once you know where things stand, it becomes so much easier to improve your cholesterol.
Taking care of your heart must be at the top of everyones list weve only got one engine for life, after all.
What Are Triglycerides And Why Do They Matter
Triglycerides are another form of blood fat similar to cholesterol.
Making healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way toward controlling your triglyceride levels.
Some people, though, have an inherited genetic condition called hypertriglyceridemia, which causes high triglyceride levels.
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Is All Cholesterol Bad For You
When most people think of cholesterol, they immediately equate it to bad health. However, some cholesterol is actually essential for good health. Your body needs cholesterol to synthesize vitamin D and hormones, as well as to maintain the proper structure and functioning of your cells.
Top 10 Foods Highest In Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a steroid lipid present in the blood, necessary for the proper functioning of cell membranes and the production of vitamin D and certain hormones.
Cholesterol deficiency is rare, as our bodies manufacture the cholesterol we need. High cholesterol levels on the other hand, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems.
When we consume foods rich in cholesterol, our bodies tend to reduce the production of cholesterol in response, in an attempt to keep levels stable. A diet high in total fat, saturated fat, processed trans fats and low in fibre, along with being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking and high alcohol consumption is believed to lead to high cholesterol. There are also certain genes that cause people to have raised cholesterol.
Consumption of cholesterol in foods is therefore not the main factor, but there may be certain groups of people who are sensitive to dietary cholesterol.
High cholesterol foods include fast foods, liver, fatty meats, canned shrimp, desserts, eggs, whipped cream, bacon, cheese, and butter. The current daily value for cholesterol is 300mg.
Below is a list of high cholesterol foods. To lower your cholesterol, read the article on cholesterol lowering foods.
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Checking Your Blood Cholesterol Level
A cholesterol screening is an overall look at the fats in your blood. Screenings help identify your risk for heart disease. It is important to have what is called a full lipid profile to show the actual levels of each type of fat in your blood: LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and others. Talk with your healthcare provider about when to have this test.
Food Supplements That Do Not Help With Cholesterol
Many extracts and supplements have been promoted for their overall health benefits and lipid-lowering effects, but do they work?
We reviewed the available scientific research and found that the following supplements had no good evidence to support those claims:
Selenium: Supplements may help lower cholesterol in people with low levels of selenium, but not in people with normal levels of selenium. There is not enough scientific evidence to say that selenium protects against cardiovascular disease.
Calcium: Results here are mixed, but the bottom line is calcium supplementation does not improve cholesterol levels.
Garlic supplements: Raw, powdered, and aged garlic supplements had no effect on cholesterol levels.
Policosanol: This substance, which is extracted from sugar cane wax, did not improve cholesterol.
Coconut oil supplements: There is mixed evidence about the cardiovascular benefits or harm of coconut oil. It is not an evidence-based alternative treatment for high cholesterol levels.
Coconut water: There is no high-quality data about coconut water improving cholesterol levels.
Resveratrol supplements: There is no evidence that these improve cholesterol levels in humans.
Soy isoflavones supplements: Taking supplements of soy isoflavones does not improve cholesterol levels.
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How The Fat You Eat Affects Cholesterol Levels
The relationship between the fat we eat and our health, particularly our cardiovascular health, has been hotly debated for many years.
Heres what you need to know:
Not all fats are created equally.
The kinds of fat you eat matter more than the amount.
There are different types of fats in our diet:
Polyunsaturated fats: essential and important nutrients
Monounsaturated fats: can come from plant or animal products and are generally considered healthy
Saturated fats: less healthy than mono- and polyunsaturated fats
Trans fats: unhealthy fats
Symptoms Of Low Cholesterol
For people with high LDL cholesterol, there are often no symptoms until a heart attack or stroke occurs. If theres a serious blockage in a coronary artery, you may experience chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart muscle.
With low cholesterol, theres no chest pain signaling a buildup of fatty substances in an artery.
Depression and anxiety can spring from many causes, including possibly low cholesterol. Symptoms of depression and anxiety include:
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Heredity Can Play A Role
Some people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to have too much cholesterol. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia . The severity of FH is related to the duration and degree of LDL cholesterol in the blood. FH is dangerous because it can cause premature atherosclerotic heart disease.
If you have a family history of FH or problems related to high cholesterol, get your levels checked.
British Columbia Specific Information
What you eat is important to the health of your heart. Heart healthy eating can help you prevent and/or manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart failure. For information on heart healthy eating and nutrition, see Healthy Eating Heart Health. You may also call 8-1-1 to speak to a registered dietitian, Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or you can Email a HealthLinkBC Dietitian.
For additional information on heart healthy eating and living, visit the BC Heart and Stroke Foundation.
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What Is The Role Of Cholesterol In Cancer
Cholesterol level tends to be high in cancer cells but it is currently controversial as to what this means . Some epidemiologic studies suggest a positive association between elevated serum cholesterol levels and risk for certain cancer types . For example, a 10 mg/dL increase in cholesterol was associated with a 9% increase in prostate cancer recurrence . Furthermore, another study suggests that statin use was associated with lowered risk of melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, endometrial, and breast cancers , while another report documents a dose-dependent reduction in colorectal cancer mortality with statin use . Recently, a case-control study with 295,925 cancer patients, suggested a link between statin use and a slight reduction in cancer-related mortality for 13 different cancer types . While these epidemiologic studies suggest a possible role for cholesterol involvement in cancer, they have been criticized for having intrinsic limitations and a solely retrospective focus . Surprisingly, an equal number of epidemiologic studies suggest no association between cholesterol and cancer . In fact, in some cases, cancer was linked to low cholesterol levels and statins were speculated to have carcinogenic properties . This conflicting epidemiologic evidence is the major reason for the uncertainty regarding the role of cholesterol in cancer development and it is currently unclear as to how this could be resolved.
Numbness In The Body Parts
If you are constantly experiencing numbness in your body parts, then high cholesterol can be responsible for that. However, other causes can also be responsible for numbness and swelling.
When bad cholesterol appears high in your body, it affects blood circulation and prevents healthy nutrients from reaching the body. The lack of proper oxygen is also a cause of swelling and unusual numbness.
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When To Have A Cholesterol Test
The Canadian Cardiovascular Society recommends testing for men and women age 40 and older or who are post-menopausal. Children with a family history of lipid disorders should also be tested. Testing is also recommended for people of any age who have:footnote 1
- Strong risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, or abdominal obesity.
- A strong family history of premature cardiovascular disease.
- Inflammatory diseases, such as lupus, psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Chronic kidney diseases.
For more information, see Making Lifestyle Changes.
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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