Common Causes Of High Cholesterol And What To Do About Them
High cholesterol, a well-known health condition among Americans, is on the decline but remains a threat. The percentage of U.S. adults suffering from high cholesterol dropped by an impressive 6% between 2000 and 2016, from 18.3% down to just 12%. This is a step in a positive direction, but higher-than-recommended cholesterol is still a serious condition and prevention depends on a thorough understanding of its causes. High cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease and remains the leading cause of death in the United States.
High cholesterol is largely governed by lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and smoking and that means its both treatable and preventable. The following list will explore the five most common causes of high cholesterol and the best ways to achieve healthy levels.
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Where Does Bad Cholesterol Come From
According to Dr. Michael Greger, founder of NutritionFacts.org, LDL cholesterol is found in trans fats, which is found in processed foods and naturally in meat and dairy. The Mayo Clinic notes that this trans fats are double trouble for heart health due to the fact that it raises LDL levels while lowering good HDL levels.
Trans fat is added to processed foods through an industrial process where hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, which allows the oil to be solid at room temperature. On ingredients labels, its called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and it is used to give many packaged foods a longer shelf life. It is also used for deep-frying by some restaurants because partially hydrogenated oil does not need to be changed as often.
Foods that typically contain trans fats include commercial baked goods, snacks like chips and crackers, refrigerated dough such as cinnamon rolls and pizza crusts, fried foods, and margarine. Cheese, butter, and processed meat like bacon, breakfast sausages, ham, and hot dogs are also high in bad cholesterol.
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.
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Where Does Cholesterol Come From
Cholesterol in your body comes from two main sources: your liver and your diet.
Your liver, other organs, and other cells in your body produce about 80 percent of the cholesterol in your blood.
The other 20 percent of cholesterol in your body is affected by the foods you eat. Foods high in trans and saturated fats can contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels.
As you take in more of these fats, your liver compensates by reducing its own production of cholesterol and removing excess cholesterol. However, not everyone makes and removes cholesterol with the same efficiency.
Some people have genes that tell their liver to make extra cholesterol or to slow their bodys cholesterol removal process. If youve inherited these genes, you may have high cholesterol even if you dont eat foods that are rich in fat or cholesterol.
C H O L E S T E R O L
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipids in your bloodstream, and in every cell of your body. Your body produces it and also ingests dietary cholesterol from your food. Cholesterol is used to help form cell membranes, protect the nervous system and produce some hormones and Vitamin D.
Where does cholesterol come from?
Cholesterol is found in meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products no plant products contain cholesterol. Consuming saturated fats may also be a major factor in raising your blood cholesterol. Because your body also produces cholesterol on its own, you could theoretically cut cholesterol out of your diet completely and your body would never miss it. However, it’s difficult to do so while still getting the amount of protein and other nutrients you need to live a healthy life.
How much is too much?
The American Heart association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams or less.
What’s the difference between LDL and HDL cholesterol?
HDL and LDL are often referred to as types of cholesterol, but to be strictly accurate, they are not. Cholesterol is carried in the blood by lipoproteins LDLs, or low density lipoproteins, carry most of the cholesterol in the blood.
What is “blood cholesterol level”?
What happens if your blood cholesterol level is too high?
How can you lower your blood cholesterol levels?
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What Is Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber is generally referred to as “roughage.” Insoluble fiber promotes regularity, adds bulk and softness to stools, helps with weight regulation and helps prevent many gastrointestinal disorders. Good sources on insoluble fiber include:
- Wheat bran and whole wheat or grain bread/bread products, pasta, cereal and crackers.
How Cholesterol Moves Around The Body
Cholesterol is a white, insoluble and waxy substance. It is carried around the body by two key transport systems in the blood, which include:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol carries most of the cholesterol that is delivered to cells. It is called the bad cholesterol because when its level in the bloodstream is high, it can clog up your arteries.
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is called the good cholesterol, because it helps remove excess cholesterol out of the cells, including cells in the arteries.
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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.
Myth: Eating Foods With A Lot Of Cholesterol Will Not Make My Cholesterol Levels Go Up
Fact: It can be complicated. We know that foods with a lot of cholesterol usually also have a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fats can make your cholesterol numbers higher, so its best to choose foods that are lower in saturated fats. Foods made from animals, including red meat, butter, and cheese, have a lot of saturated fats.
Instead, aim to eat foods with plenty of fiber, such as oatmeal and beans, and healthy unsaturated fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
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Cholesterol Levels Do Not Tell Us Anything About How Effective Treatments Are
High LDL and low HDL cholesterol levels are recognized risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They can help get an idea of someones individual risk. But that does not mean that everything that can improve cholesterol levels, or claims to do so, is automatically good for your health. For example, one medication called torcetrapib was shown to be very effective at increasing good cholesterol levels and reducing bad cholesterol levels. But when the manufacturer did a study involving 15,000 people to see whether torcetrapib also prevented cardiovascular disease, the opposite was found to be true: it actually increased the risk of cardiovascular disease. So it was never approved as a medicine.
This example makes it clearer why it is so important to take factors other than into account when assessing the advantages and disadvantages of treatments. There is a lot of advice out there about what to do about high cholesterol, and many treatments are available. But only some of them have been reliably proven to prevent serious health problems, such as heart attacks, and increase life expectancy.
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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Exercise Regularly And Stop Smoking
If youre a smoker, studies have shown that smoking can inhibit the production of HDL cholesterol. In one study of more than 1,500 people, those who quit smoking experienced twice the increase in HDL as those who resumed smoking within the year.
Being physically active is another way to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, particularly for strength training, aerobics, and high-intensity exercise such as HIIT and HICT . However, even low-intensity exercise has been shown to increase HDLs anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities.
What Are Trans Fatty Acids
Trans fatty acids are formed when a liquid fat is changed into a solid fat through a process called hydrogenation. Many manufacturers use hydrogenated fats in their ingredients because it creates a product with an extended shelf life and better consistency.
Trans fatty acids are especially bad for you. They raise the levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood and lower the levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
There are currently no safe levels of trans fat to consume each day, so avoid them completely or eat them as little as possible.
Many manufacturers have stopped using or greatly reduced the amount of trans fats in their foods. But, check the label and avoid:
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Four Common Cholesterol Misconceptions
When people hear the word cholesterol, they typically think of a fatty, plaque-building substance that comes from the foods we eat.
When people hear the word cholesterol, they typically think of a fatty, plaque-building substance that comes from the foods we eat. But the truth is that cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance in the body that is essential to health. Of course, like many things in excess, too much cholesterol in our blood can be bad and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Here are 4 common misconceptions related to both cholesterol in general and common treatments for high cholesterol levels.
Misconception #1: All types of cholesterol are the same.
Cholesterol can be divided into 2 broad categories: dietary cholesterol, which is found in the food we eat and serum cholesterol, which is a naturally occurring substance made in the body. Within our bodies, there are 2 main types of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein . LDL, often referred to as the bad cholesterol, makes up most of the bodys cholesterol, and when levels are high, it can lead to plaque buildups in the arteries, resulting in heart disease and stroke.
Misconception #2: Eating foods high in cholesterol will significantly increase cholesterol levels in the body.
Misconception #3: People who are thin dont have to worry about having high cholesterol levels.
What Is A Good Ldl To Hdl Ratio
In general, the higher your HDL, and the lower LDL, the better off you are. Optimal cholesterol levels are determined by looking at the ratio of HDL cholesterol to total cholesterol. This is calculated by dividing total cholesterol score by your HDL result, so if your total score is 150, and your HDL is at 50, you’d score a 3:1.
Generally speaking, the higher this number, the higher the risk of heart problems. Doctors want to see a ratio below 5:1, with those below 3.5:1 considered ideal. Since lowering LDL causes total cholesterol numbers to drop, it promotes a better cholesterol ratio.
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What Causes Low Hdl Cholesterol
There are many reasons why some people have low HDL and others have high HDL. Genes appear to play the most important role by determining how much HDL cholesterol your body makes and the proportion of different subtypes.
Lifestyle choices also affect HDL levels. Smoking, carrying too many pounds, and lack of physical activity tend to lower HDL. So does a diet high in refined carbohydrates . Medications such as beta blockers, anabolic steroids, progestins, and benzodiazepines can also depress HDL.
Which Foods Are High In Cholesterol
All animal foods contain some cholesterol. But by cutting down on the animal foods that contain saturated fats you will be keeping the cholesterol in your diet in check too.
Foods that contain cholesterol and are high in saturated fat.
Full fat dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt and cream.
Animal fats, such as butter, ghee, margarines and spreads made from animal fats, lard, suet and dripping.
Fatty meat and processed meat products such as sausages.
There are some foods which are low in saturated fat but high in cholesterol. These include eggs, some shellfish, liver, liver pate and offal. Most people dont need to cut down on the cholesterol thats found in these foods.
Foods that contain cholesterol but are low in saturated fat.
Lean meat, especially offal, such as liver, kidney, sweetbreads, heart and tripe
Prawns, crab, lobster, squid, octopus and cuttlefish.
For people with FH, or who have high cholesterol, or are at high risk of or have cardiovascular disease, you can still eat some of these foods, but you need to be more careful about how often you eat them to ensure youre keeping within the guidelines. For example, you could eat three or four eggs a week, and shellfish such as prawns up to once or twice a week.
You should avoid liver and offal altogether because they are very rich sources of cholesterol.
The table below shows the amount of cholesterol in these types of foods:-
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Ways To Lower Cholesterol
First, check your own cholesterol level and if it’s high, ask to have your kids’ levels checked.
Here are 5 ways to help keep your family’s cholesterol in control:
Make healthy living a family effort. Improving your lifestyle now will benefit everyone’s health now and far into the future.
Do You Have High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is a natural and essential part of all cells in your body. It helps produce hormones, make vitamin D, provide cells with structure, and plays a role in the process of digesting fats. The liver creates all of the cholesterol that your body needs, so it is not required that you get it from foods. Foods that come from animals such as meat, cheese, and eggs all provide dietary cholesterol to the body.
There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoproteins and low-density lipoproteins . HDL is thought of as the good type of cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from your blood to your liver to be removed. This is helpful to the heart. LDL is the bad type of cholesterol: It causes a buildup of cholesterol in the blood, which leads to furring up of the arteries. This is called atherosclerosis and is a direct cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. They are separate to and different from cholesterol, but they are nearly always included in the cholesterol lab panel since they have a similar effect on your heart and overall health. Triglycerides come from eating too many calories . These extra calories are stored in the blood as triglycerides. High triglyceride levels can lead to heart disease and problems in your pancreas and liver, including fatty liver disease.
Here are the normal ranges for cholesterol and triglyceride levels in adults :
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