Cholesterol The Silent Killer
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in all cells of the body. It is manufactured by the body and needed to make substances such as vitamin D, and others which help in digesting food.
Cholesterol is transported through the body in lipoproteins – small packages consisting of fat (lipid) surrounded by proteins.
There are two types of lipoproteins
Low density lipoproteins (LDL) commonly called bad cholesterol because a high level of LDL can cause a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries
High density lipoproteins (HDL) commonly called good cholesterol. HDL transports cholesterol from all over the body back to the liver where it is removed from your body.
It is important to have good levels of both for optimal health.
What Is High Blood Cholesterol?
High blood cholesterol is just as it sounds; excessive amounts of cholesterol in your blood, it can be very hard to diagnose because there are often no signs or symptoms.
- Having high levels of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of getting coronary heart disease (also known as coronary artery disease).
- Higher levels of HDL lower the risk of getting coronary heart disease.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary Heart Disease is a condition where plaque (a mixture of cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances in the blood) builds up in the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries); this build up is called atherosclerosis.
Over time the plaque can harden and narrow your coronary arteries limiting the blood flow to the heart.
When the plaque breaks open a blood clot is formed on the surface as part of the body’s natural healing process, but, if the clot is too large it can partially block the artery causing a condition known as angina, or fully block the artery causing heart attack.
What Causes High Blood Cholesterol?
There are many factors which can affect cholesterol levels, some you can control and others you can’t.
Limit foods with cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fats.
Cholesterol: Foods from animal sources contain cholesterol such as meat, cheese and egg yolks.
Saturated Fats: Other foods that can increase your low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) are saturated fats, these can be found in some meats, chocolate, deep fried foods, baked goods, processed foods and dairy products.
Trans Fats: Trans fatty acids (trans fats) raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Trans fats are the result of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil so it goes hard. These can be found in fried and processed foods.
Physical Activity and Weight: Being overweight can raise your LDL levels and lower your HDL levels.
Have a healthy eating plan and get moderate physical activity 30 to 40 minutes three to four times a week. This can help you lower your LDL cholesterol level and raise your HDL cholesterol level.
Factors You Can’t Control
Heredity: If there is a family history of cholesterol you are at higher risk of having high cholesterol yourself.
Age and Sex
- At puberty HDL cholesterol is generally lower in men than women
- Cholesterol levels change with age
- Before age 55 LDL cholesterol in women is usually lower than in men
- After age 55 LDL cholesterol levels in women can be higher than in men
How Is High Blood Cholesterol Treated?
Eat healthy, get physical, lose excess weight, and Don’t Smoke.
What you eat directly impacts your cholesterol level.
- Eat healthier fats, (A healthier option is Monounsaturated fat from olive and canola oils). Other sources of healthier fats are walnuts, pecans, almonds and avocados.
- Cut down saturated fats to increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats commonly eaten are found in red meat, processed meats and full fat dairy products
- Cut out trans fats found in snack cakes, commercially baked cookies, crackers and margarine. Trans fats are particularly bad as they increase your LDL (bad cholesterol) and decrease your HDL (good cholesterol) – any food with the ingredient partially hydrogenated oils contains trans fats
- Limit your cholesterol intake – most cholesterol is eaten in organ meats, egg yolks and whole milk products – Limit eggs to 7 per week and eat lean meats and skim milk instead
- Eat whole grain breads, whole-wheat pasta and flour and brown rice. Other good choices are oat meal and oat bran
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Eat Fish – Tuna, cod and halibut have less cholesterol and saturated fat than poultry and meat. Mackerel, salmon and herring are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids which make them great heart food
- Lose any extra weight – Set long term, sustainable goals to eat healthy and increase your activity level.
- Quit smoking