Cholesterol levels are directly linked to atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attack and stroke. This means that keeping your numbers in check is a must for a long, healthy life.
High levels can be attributed to various factors, including diet, lifestyle, and genetics; here’s what you can do to keep your levels under control.
Understand what it is.
Cholesterol is a chemical built primarily in the liver for the transportation of fats around the body. It is carried around the body by various means but the most important of these are Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL), and High Density Lipoproteins (HDL). These are the types that are checked in your blood when determining your risk levels.
LDL-Cholesterol (also known as the “Bad” kind) is responsible for depositing fatty streaks on your artery walls known as plaques. Over time this causes blockages, which can result in heart attack or stroke.
HDL-Cholesterol (also known as the “Good” kind) actually scrubs your artery walls of these plaques, opening them back up. Because of this, if you already have plaques on your artery walls, HDL- can help undo the damage.
Reduce cholesterol in your diet.
Though your body’s production of cholesterol accounts for most of what is found in your system, some of it comes from food. It is only found in animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy. Lower your intake of these foods and add fresh grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. These alternatives are naturally cholesterol free and can actually pull it out of your body.
While the body’s production is the main source of it in the blood, high fat foods can also increase your body’s production of cholesterol, which can be good and bad. The more Saturated Fat you consume, the higher your LDL levels tend to go. However the more Mono and Polly-unsaturated fats you consume, the higher your HDL levels tend to go.
What many doctors fail to tell their patients is that keeping your HDL high and your LDL low is the key in keeping your arteries clear.
Build your diet around fresh grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Your can lower your overall numbers by simply adding fresh grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. These alternatives are not only naturally cholesterol free but they can actually pull it out of your body. All plant foods have one thing in common; they all have fiber.
Fiber comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble.
Insoluble fiber, also know as roughage, is what makes up the majority of a plant food. It cannot be digested by the human body and simply passes through our digestive tract, helping to keep it clean and our digestive patterns regular.
While insoluble fiber helps with digestion, soluble fiber is the key ingredient in lowering your cholesterol naturally. It does this by binding a digestive enzyme that your body makes from cholesterol. Usually your body just reabsorbs this enzyme but the soluble fiber binds to it. This keeps it from being reabsorbed, which causes your body to have to make more of the enzyme, using up cholesterol from your body (thus helping to lower your levels).
The more soluble fiber you eat, the more enzymes your body has to make, meaning that more cholesterol gets used up and removed from your body.
Add exercise to your daily routine.
When you exercise, your body increases its production of hormones. Many hormones are actually created from the cholesterol in your body, so as your hormone levels increase with exercise your levels will decrease.
The extra activity also requires more calories which directly affects your levels by lowering the available fat in your system to make cholesterol. Cardiovascular exercise helps but strength training combined with cardiovascular exercise will provide the most significant benefit in lowering your levels through physical activity.
If all else fails, medicate.
Medication is necessary for some but for those who can control their ratios with diet and exercise, medication should be a last resort. Most medications directly affect the liver and can have damaging side effects if used in high amounts over long periods of time.
Again, what most doctors fail to tell patients is that most drugs lower your total cholesterol but do nothing for your ratios of LDL to HDL, meaning that you can still be at risk for atherosclerosis.
If you have tried altering your diet and added a regular exercise routine and your levels are still not where they should be then talk to your doctor about what type of medication may be right for you, but never give up on proper diet and exercise. Even if they don’t lower your cholesterol to where it needs to be the health benefits will carry over into other aspects of your life.