Cholesterol is something that we don’t notice in our body. However, it does have a tremendous impact on our overall health. It is actually made up of three different elements, being high density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), low density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides. When someone says they have “high cholesterol”, they mean that their LDL levels, and usually also their triglycerides, are high, which can have significant adverse health effects. Having high cholesterol puts you at increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease and is therefore something that must be addressed.
Usually, people find out that their LDL cholesterol levels are high after a routine blood test with their physician. They will then be offered a variety of solutions to help them lower their LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing their HDL cholesterol levels. Sometimes, medication, such as statins are prescribed for this. Overall, reducing bad cholesterol is down to making lifestyle changes. Doing so will have a significant impact on overall health, even if it is an overall slow process.
Understanding the Different Types of Cholesterol:
As stated, the two types of cholesterol are HDL and LDL. LDL cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol because it is this type that sticks to the arterial walls, clogging them up and making blood flow more difficult. It settles in the arteries, where it forms a hard plaque, which grows over time. The bigger the layer of plaque gets, the bigger the chance that you will develop heart disease. LDL cholesterol itself, therefore, is not a cause of death, but it is does lead to other diseases that have the potential to be fatal.
HDL cholesterol, meanwhile, is called “good” cholesterol because this is the type that our body needs. The body produces cholesterol, as well as get it from certain foods. What HDL cholesterol does, is remove excess LDL cholesterol from the blood, thereby reducing levels of bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol does have a role to play in the overall biological function, but it has to be kept at levels that the HDL cholesterol can manage, and that is where most of us go wrong.
Ideal Cholesterol Levels:
Because both LDL and HDL cholesterol have roles to play in the human body, physicians have determined what are the ideal levels for each type. Ideal levels of LDL cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dl. If your LDL cholesterol level is between 100 mg/dl and 129 mg/dl, there is not yet a major cause for concern. If levels are between 130 mg/dl and 160 mg/dl, however, then you do have to start making some dietary and lifestyle changes to bring it down. Meanwhile, so long as you commit to doing so, you do not have to take medication yet. If, however, those levels go above 160 mg/dl, then you will need a prescription medication to rapidly help you lower those levels, after which you should be able to continue to support that drop through lifestyle and dietary changes.
Meanwhile, HDL cholesterol level should be around 60 mg/dl. If it drops below 40 mg/dl, then this is considered as too low, which is also a cause for concern. Even if your LDL cholesterol levels are ideal, if your HDL cholesterol levels are too low, they will not be able to process the LDL, meaning plaque formation will still ensue.
How to Lower LDL Cholesterol Level:
HDL cholesterol’s primary function is to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood after it has served its purpose. Hence, the focus tends to be on taking action to raise levels of HDL cholesterol first, as this should impact LDL cholesterol as well. The exception is in people who have good or even high levels of HDL cholesterol, while still having high LDL cholesterol levels as well. In this case, they must maintain the things that enabled them to have appropriate HDL levels, while at the same time taking action to lower LDL cholesterol. Generally, this means making significant dietary changes.
Technically, changing your diet and lifestyle isn’t difficult. It means using the oven instead of the fryer, and munching on crunchy vegetables rather than potato chips. Practically, however, it can be very difficult to make a significant lifestyle change. Remember that the bad foods you currently eat, are eaten out of habit. It takes six weeks to change a habit, even if it is the habit of a lifetime. Additionally, if you incorporate new food types that help to lower LDL or raise HDL, you should see results within as little as 30 days, when your physician calls you in for a new blood test. It may not be the easiest thing to do, but it is vital that you give it your all, because not taking action may eventually prove fatal.
One really good food type for lowering LDL cholesterol is unsaturated fat, like omega 3. This is found in a variety of different oils, as well as in fatty fish like salmon. Furthermore, you should eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. Your diet should include lots of different grains, fish, legumes, and white meats. Do not eat more than three meals per week that contain red meats, as those are not good for your overall cardiovascular health, and certainly won’t help in lowering LDL cholesterol either, even if you consume very lean red meats.
The above dietary changes, as you can see, are not tremendously restrictive. They will, however, make a truly enormous difference by lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol levels. Essentially, they will help you to make your body function properly, thereby staving off a variety of potentially lethal diseases. The odds are set against us with our modern Western lifestyles. All foods are heavily processed and contain very little goodness. On the other hand, they are designed to be convenient and very tasty. This is perhaps the greatest difficulty you will find, as it is hard to give up on the foods you have enjoyed for many years and to have to start cooking wholesome meals instead. However, it is worth it for yourself and your loved ones.