Q: If I Eat Something With A Lot Of Cholesterol Will That Make My Numbers Go Up
A: Not necessarily. When you’re reading nutritional labels, you don’t want to pay attention to the amount of cholesterol as much as the type of fat. When you’re consuming fat, you want to get unsaturated fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat found in avocados, olives, peanut butter, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and nuts and seeds. Fats you want to avoid in high amounts are saturated fat External Site, often found in animal products like meat and dairy, and trans fat, often found in processed foods like cookies, cakes, crackers, margarine, and microwavable popcorn.
The Truth About Cholesterol: A Breakdown
- As nice as it would have been to be so black and white, cardiovascular disease is not as simple as the lipid hypothesis.
- In other words, while cholesterol seems to play a role in heart disease, its definitely not the only factor involved.
- Dietary cholesterol is not correlated with increased risk for heart disease, and it has little impact on blood cholesterol levels.
- The heart health picture is complex, but the solution is fairly simple: lifestyle modification is king, and emphasis should be placed on diet quality, physical activity patterns, and behaviors.
Do You Need To Limit Dietary Cholesterol
For most people, the answer might not be what you expect. We dive into the science to explain why.
Cholesterol is arguably one of the most misunderstood nutrients. Remember the days when eating egg yolks was a diet taboo? Or when there was a low-fat version of everything? This is in large part due to misconception that many held around dietary cholesterol and how it influences your health.;
Luckily for us, more and more research is coming to light about cholesterol levels, heart health, the cholesterol that’s naturally present in food and how they’re all intertwined. In short, dietary cholesterol doesn’t directly raise your blood cholesterol levels. And there are several foods we can eat that boost our “good” cholesterol levels and lower our “bad” cholesterol levels. So, you don’t need to strictly limit your dietary cholesterol in that name of healthy cholesterol levels. Here we dive into the science to explain why.;
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How Is It Broken Down
Once in the blood stream, some cholesterol will be returned to the liver and broken down. Its used to make bile acids which are released into the intestines to help with digestion; bile acids break down the fats in food.
A small amount of bile acids will be removed from the body as a waste product in your poo. But most will be absorbed back into the blood, returned to the liver and used again for digestion.
Some treatments for high cholesterol work by stopping bile from being absorbed back into the blood. The liver has to take more cholesterol out of the blood to make more bile, lowering your cholesterol levels.
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How To Lower Ldl Cholesterol
Lifestyle and diet changes are the main ways to prevent or lower high LDL. A trial of eating a low-fat diet, regular aerobic activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and smaller waist circumference is an appropriate first step. It is best to set a timeline to achieve your goals with your doctor. In some cases, if those lifestyle changes are not enough, your physician may suggest a cholesterol lowering medication, such as a statin. If you are considering over-the-counter herbal or ayurvedic medications for cholesterol, please discuss those with your physician first as well.
Rarely, very high LDL is genetic and passed down in families. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia and is caused by a genetic mutation that decreases the livers ability to clear excess cholesterol. This condition can lead to very high LDL levels, and heart attack or stroke at a young age in multiple generations. Those individuals may require special medical treatment for prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Remember, knowledge is the first step. If you dont know your cholesterol levels, get tested. That will give you and your physician a starting point for lifestyle changes and medications if needed. In the meantime, adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle, and do it with friends and family no matter their ages. Theres no time like the present to prevent heart disease.
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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.
Q: What Will Happen If You Have High Cholesterol
A: High cholesterol, like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and a high body mass index , is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have LDL higher than 100 mg/dL, HDL lower than 50 mg/dL, and/or total cholesterol higher than 200 mg/dL, your cholesterol levels are high. This increases your risk for build-up of plaque in your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Triglycerides, the other number you’ll see on your lipid panel, are another fatty substance in your blood. If your body cant process glucose or sugar effectively, this level will go up. If your triglycerides are higher than 150 mg/dL, it can be hard on your pancreas and potentially lead to prediabetes.
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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.
What You Should Worry About
Should you actually worry about cholesterol in food? The greater danger for everyone is in foods that are high in trans fats.
Those often appear on food labels as hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, he says. Those types of fats do tend to raise cholesterol and do tend to increase the risk of heart disease.
All in all, look for trans fat and saturated fat on labels at the grocery store. The American Heart Association recommends;limiting dietary saturated;fat intake and focusing more on eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean animal protein or plant protein sources.
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Types Of Cholesterol And Which Type Your Body Needs
When we talk about cholesterol, we often hear the terms LDL and HDL cholesterol. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, and HDL means high-density lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are compounds made up of protein and fat that help carry cholesterol molecules throughout our body in the bloodstream.
LDL cholesterol is known to be the bad cholesterol, while HDL is known to be the good cholesterol for the body. But why is LDL cholesterol deemed to be bad? Lets take a look.
LDL is known to be the bad cholesterol because if the level of this lipoprotein becomes too much in the bloodstream, it can cause your arteries to harden. According to the American Heart Association, too much LDL in the blood can lead to a buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries. With time as the plaque continues to build up, it can lead to two separate and harmful issues.
First is the narrowing of the blood vessels, which severely strains the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, and second is the formation of blood clots. These blood clots can break loose and end up blocking the artery, blocking the flow of blood. This is one of the leading causes of a stroke or heart attack.
So, when it comes to understanding which type of cholesterol your body needs, then you should be focusing on keeping the LDL levels low and boosting the HDL numbers. Your LDL cholesterol should ideally be below 100 milligrams per deciliter .
How To Lower Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medications or both.
Here are some ways to manage your cholesterol.
Eat heart-healthy food
What you eat can make a big difference to your cholesterol levels.
Cut back on foods high in saturated fats like:;
- oily fish.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. So drinking less is a good way to lower your cholesterol.;
The Ministry of Health recommends no more than 10 standard drinks per week for women and no more than 15 for men. One standard drink is equal to: ;
- a standard can of 4% beer
- a small glass of wine
- a small single shot of spirits
If you have high cholesterol or you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, you may need to drink less than this.
Smoking makes your LDL cholesterol stickier and reduces the amount of HDL cholesterol in your blood. It also damages the artery walls. This increases the build-up of plaque in your arteries and can cause risk of heart attack and stroke.
Quitting smoking is a great way to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Sitting less and being more active are great ways to reduce high cholesterol.
This doesnt mean you have to join a gym or take up running it just means you need to move your body more throughout the day. Ideally you should do 30 minutes of activity a day.;
You could try:;
Read more about the benefits of exercise.
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Effects Of High Ldlcholesterol On The Brain
The same clot can block an artery supplying your brain, leading to stroke. A person with a stroke can become paralyzed or be unable to talk or walk depending on the area of the brain damaged.
The need to lower your LDL cholesterol becomes more obvious as the risk of memory loss and Alzheimers disease rises with the rising LDL-C levels. A putative link exists between high LDL levels and AD. High cholesterol or LDL levels in midlife can lead to cognitive decline in later life. This is probably because LDL-C favors the deposition of amyloid -protein, the sticky substance that damages the brain in AD. Moreover, people who take statins may already be protected against AD. This is in view of the statins potential to cross the blood-brain barrier and prevent AD.
Keeping the LDL levels within the acceptable ranges can minimize the risk of cognitive impairment in later life.
What Are Some Causes Of High Cholesterol
As we mentioned above, cholesterol is carried through your blood attached to proteins. Factors impacting your overall cholesterol levels which are within your control include inactivity, obesity and a poor diet all of which contribute to high LDL and low HDL cholesterol. Factors beyond your control may also play a role in high cholesterol. Your family genetics may play a role in preventing cells from removing LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or cause your liver to produce too much cholesterol.
Knowing your cholesterol levels helps your doctor determine your risk for having a heart attack or a stroke. However, it isnt cholesterol alone that elevates risk. Your doctor uses your cholesterol levels plus other factors to calculate your risk: your blood pressure, whether or not you have diabetes, your age, sex, race and whether or not you smoke.
Lack of exercise is another cause of high cholesterol. Exercise helps boost your bodys HDL, or good cholesterol while increasing the size of the particles that make up your LDL, or bad cholesterol, making them less harmful.
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Lifestyle Tips To Cut Cholesterol
Changing some of your lifestyle habits may also help to reduce your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Suggestions include:
- Cease alcohol consumption or reduce your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a day. Avoid binge drinking. This may help lower your triglyceride levels.
- Dont smoke. Smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to get into artery cells and cause damage.
- Exercise regularly . Exercise increases HDL levels while reducing LDL and triglyceride levels in the body.
- Lose any excess body fat. Being overweight may contribute to raised blood triglyceride and LDL levels.
- Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. High blood sugars are linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis , heart attacks and strokes.
Getting A Cholesterol Test
A blood sample is taken that will be used to determine the amount of bad cholesterol , good cholesterol and;other fatty substances in your blood.
You may be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours before the cholesterol test, usually including when you’re asleep at night. This ensures that all food is completely digested and won’t affect the outcome of the test.
Your GP or practice nurse can carry out the;cholesterol test and will take a blood sample, either using a needle and a syringe or by pricking your finger.
A newer type of test that measures non-high-density lipoprotein is now sometimes used because it’s thought to be a more accurate way of estimating;cardiovascular disease risk than LDL.
Non-HDL cholesterol is total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol. It’s also not necessary to fast before the test, so it;is more convenient.
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How Statins Work And Why Theyre Not Enough
To talk about statins, we first need to talk a little about cholesterol. When you hear the word cholesterol, it is referring to one of two sorts.
First, there is blood cholesterol. Most of it comes from the liver. The liver produces cholesterol because our bodies need it for all kinds of reasons. Cholesterol helps our cells do their jobs. It is also an integral part of several hormones. We would not exist without blood cholesterol, but then again, neither would heart disease.
There’s cholesterol in your blood , and cholesterol you eat .
Blood cholesterol is also the number were referring to when we say, My cholesterol level is . . .
Heres one really important point: Our liver manufactures all the cholesterol we need.
The second type of cholesterol is dietary cholesterol. This is the cholesterol we eat. Major sources include egg yolks, organ meats like liver, and shrimp.
If we eat too much dietary cholesterol, we can raise our blood cholesterol somewhat, but what really sends our blood cholesterol soaring are saturated fats and trans fats. Foods full of saturated fat include red meat, butter, cheese, cream, whole milk, palm oil, and coconut oil. Foods with trans fats include anything that has partially hydrogenated oils in its ingredient list, such as many store-bought cakes, pies, and cookies as well as biscuits, donuts, and some margarines.
Statins And How Statins Work
Doctors also prescribe, usually if lifestyle changes are falling short, drugs like statins. Brand names include Lipitor, Crestor, Mevacor, Pravacol, and Zocor. Statins have been clearly shown to reduce blood cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis, or heart disease. They work by reducing the livers production of cholesterol. They block an enzyme called HMG CoA Reductase that the liver uses to make cholesterol.
But other things are happening in the liver that statins do not affect. In addition to producing cholesterol, the liver helps clear excess cholesterol from the blood. It has tiny receptors that capture LDL bad cholesterol particles that are floating around. Like vacuum cleaners, these receptors suck this excess cholesterol up and out of the blood, which means theres much less cholesterol seeping into our artery walls, building plaque.
The problem is, a diet full of saturated fats, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol reduces the number and effectiveness of these LDL receptors. And theres nothing statins can do to counteract this process.
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Cholesterol Vs Dietary Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in every cell in our body . Contrary to popular belief, not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, our bodies need cholesterol to carry out functions that help keep us healthy. It helps our bodies make hormones, synthesize vitamin D and even aids in digestion. That said, because of cholesterol’s waxy consistency, it can stick to the walls of our arteries and create a plaque build-up, which can increase our risk for heart diseases, like atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.;
There are two types of cholesterol in our bodies: low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the type that can get stuck in your blood vessels, whereas HDL cholesterol cleans out excess cholesterol and sends it to the liver to be excreted .;So, if your doctor says you have high cholesterol, they likely mean that your LDL cholesterol is too high and your HDL cholesterol is too low.
Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal products, from meat to egg yolks and dairy products. It’s important to note that foods with dietary cholesterol do not directly increase our blood cholesterol levels.