High cholesterol levels are mainly caused by our bodies inability to deal with high-fat diets. Humans exercised regularly and consumed a low-fat diet for millennia. We now have easy access to fatty and high cholesterol foods, and often our lives are sedentary. The result – 1 in 3 people in the US have high cholesterol – is inevitable.
High cholesterol raises your chances of getting coronary heart disease. If you lower cholesterol, you lower the overall risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
If you have high cholesterol levels, cholesterol can be deposited in your coronary arteries as a plaque, where it constricts the flow of blood and contributes to coronary heart disease.
When you lower cholesterol, you can slow, stop, and reverse the buildup of plaque. When you lower cholesterol, you also reduce your risk of a heart attack. Even in people who have already suffered a heart attack, the chances of having future attacks can be substantially reduced if they lower cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance, a kind of lipid packaged inside a lipoprotein that your body needs to produce certain hormones, digestive bile, and vitamin D. A large amount of brain tissue is made up of cholesterol as it insulates the nerves. You need cholesterol to live.
There are two main types of cholesterol: LDL, or low density lipoprotein (also called bad cholesterol), and HDL, or high density lipoprotein (also called good cholesterol). If you want to lower cholesterol, you look at the total of LDL added to HDL, but you also look at individual levels of LDL and HDL. *You want to lower LDL and total cholesterol, and raise HDL.*
Often people with high cholesterol also have high triglycerides, another type of lipid. Lifestyle changes that lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides as well, and all this together improves overall health.
To discover whether you need to lower cholesterol, you need a fasting lipid profile, or cholesterol test. Ask your physician for a test if you think you may have high cholesterol.
There are 10 good ways to lower cholesterol:
1. Reduce weight if you are overweight.
2. Eat six or more meals/snacks in small portions and well-spaced throughout the day.
3. Eat monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as canola and olive oils, nuts and seeds.
4. Eat legumes, low- or non-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other high-fiber foods.
5. Reduce saturated-fat foods such as meats, cheese, butter, baked goods, fried foods; high cholesterol foods such as butter, cheese, and meats; trans-fat foods such as processed foods with partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils.
6. Fast three hours before bedtime.
7. Drink lots of water.
8. Exercise daily to manage stress
9. Follow your doctors advice regarding medication.
10. Take supplements that lower cholesterol.
Heart disease kills more men and women in the U.S. than any other disease. Over one million Americans have heart attacks annually; half a million people die from heart disease.
The 1994 study, Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study, found that lowering cholesterol can prevent heart attacks and reduce death in men and women who already have heart disease and high cholesterol. High cholesterol is usually something we can change, and during the process of change we become healthier.