Naturally Normalizing Levels of "Bad" Cholesterol
What It Is, and what It Does
Cholesterol is a wax-like substance that body uses in the process of metabolism. Most of it is produced by liver. It is carried around in the bloodstream in tiny protein pockets called "lipoproteins". Body produces all cholesterol it needs, so there is no need to obtain any additional amounts from dietary sources.
There are two types of cholesterol - low density lipoproteins, mostly known by its shortened name of LDL, and high density lipoproteins, known as HDL. Low density lipoproteins are delivered from liver to every cell of the body, while high density lipoprotein is responsible for picking up the leftovers of LDL and for bringing them back to the liver where it stays stored until body needs it again.
How much We Need
When we talk about someone having a "high cholesterol", what we mean is that the body is not producing enough of HDL, allowing LDL to accumulate in arteries, which may result with artery diseases, stroke, and other serious problems.
The total amount of cholesterol should be lower than 200 milligrams per centiliter, but more important is the ratio between LDL and HDL, which should be 4:1. The ratio of 5:1 or higher is not healthy and could cause problems. The normal HDL for men is 40-50 mg, and for women 50-60 mg.
Apparently, higher levels of 70-80 may be a good protection against heart problems. Providing that the liver is functioning normally, these optimal HDL amounts can be achieved by eating foods that are not overly fat or sweet, and by some other healthy practices.
Heredity as a Cause
Causes of high cholesterol may include family history. If your parents or grandparents had a high cholesterol, chances are that you may get it as well. However, like with all other ailments usually ascribed too quickly to heredity, it is not carved in stone that you also must have that condition.
It only means that you may be genetically predisposed to it, while it's really up to your dietary habits, and possibly your emotional health, what the outcome will be. Since body is basically producing all cholesterol it needs for maintenance of healthy cell membranes and for the production of sex hormone, consuming excessive amounts of animal products, sugar, and alcohol is putting us at risk of too high cholesterol.
Moderation and Under
Of course, that doesn't call for a complete avoidance of meat or eggs, which contain some important nutrients that are not easily available from a vegetarian or vegan diets. It's all about moderation, which should especially be practiced by those who are genetically predisposed.
Even going below moderate would be prudent at times like right after New Year's holidays, Thanksgiving, or even major celebrations and parties involving some uncontrolled consumption of foods and drinks.
Now, while we are at alcohol, some studies are showing that a couple of glasses of red wine could actually lower the "bad" cholesterol. Needless to say, drinking more doesn't make it "even better", but quite the opposite - makes it a factor contributing to high cholesterol.
"Couch Potatoes" Are Particularly at Risk
Exercise helps in the metabolic process of burning body fats, along with all that extra oxygen used during exercising. So, those at a higher risk are the ones called "couch potatoes" glued to watching TV or playing with their cell phones.
As it is usually the case, they are not merely sitting, but also munching on those very snacks that are increasing their cholesterol, with an addition of all those cola drinks or alcohol. Similar is the case of those who spend hours by their computers, either working or being entertained.
Smoking is another culprit, as well as heavy coffee consumption. And then, of course, stress will do a number on your cholesterol levels, just as it does on every other aspect of your health.
We Need Dietary Fats
It would be a terrible mistake to avoid anything and everything containing fat. Out bodies need fat for energy, including the maintenance of right body temperature, and it is a better provider than carbohydrate and protein.
Fats are also important because they carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K., also working as lubricants for our intestines. Besides, essential fatty acids are very important substances for overall health, and body can't produce them on its own but needs to get them from dietary sources.
When we talk about "good fats", we mean polyunsaturated fats that come from vegetables and are liquid at room temperature. They are made from olive oil, nuts, seeds, flax seeds, soybeans, black currant oil, and primrose. Excess fat is stored in our liver, around heart, in arteries, and other tissues.
Bad, and maybe Not so Bad Fats
Those fats to be avoided are of animal origin, as well as hydrogenated fats. Also those hardened kinds of fats, like margarine, butter, and lard.
Now, about this last one I am not personally so sure, regardless of lard being on this list of undesirables of probably every nutritionist. Namely, from the standpoint of rancidity, pig fat is extremely good when compared to just about any other dietary source of fat.
In Europe it has been traditionally kept outside of fridge and not really tightly closed for many months. Especially in times and in countries that didn't know about something like refrigeration of food. On the other hand, some high quality oils will start going rancid as soon as you open the bottle and they come in contact with air.
Well, up to you how you prefer looking at the importance of rancidity, just don't forget how everyone is talking these days about rancid oil and free radicals that they produce.
Beware of those Statin Medications
In order to prevent an elevated cholesterol you can do several things. First, of course, minimize the consumption of saturated fats, sweets, and alcohol. And right after comes a warning to stay away from prescription medications, unless your cholesterol has climbed over 230 mg per milliliter.
In other words, if your doctor tells you that your cholesterol is "just slightly higher" and still recommends medicating, it would be a prudent thing to opt for better some sources of fat instead (like coconut oil, or olive oil) - rather than use those statins which have many bad side effects.
Next, do some walking, if you don't find exercising attractive. If you live in global regions with harsh winters, don't use bad weather as an excuse for not going for a walk to spend winter months "hibernating" on a couch. Go to an indoor shopping mall and walk there.
If you live in an apartment building use the stairwell for your walk; a couple of floors up and down at a time will do.
Stress, the Unsuspected Culprit
Other than that, you know that smoking and too much coffee won't do you any good, and you also know that extra body weight is bad for your health, cholesterol or otherwise.
While we always tend to think of physical problems as having some physical causes, let's not be too sure about it when stress is in question. Stress can mess you up royally, every aspect of your wellbeing.
Just think how closely your nervous system is working with every other system in the body, sending signals for normal functioning to every cell and tissue of the body. Then think what those signals turn into when our emotions are out of whack.
Hormones Having a Wild Party
Not to go into all the intricate and maddening description of what stress is actually doing to us, a little points may be sufficient to be mentioned. First of all, that stress hormone cortisol will make you fat.
Additional fat will come from that extra insulin in your bloodstream, as you swallow some of those "sweet balsams" for your nerves at a regular basis. Insulin has this nasty habit of storing calories where we don't want them.
Stress will kick your endocrine system out of whack, making your hormones go unbalanced, especially around your PMS-ing time, which may all contribute to an extra production of cholesterol.
And if you are a man and empathizing with your woman's PMS-ing, she will drive you nuts just enough to stress you out and give you some of that extra cholesterol. Now, I can't stop this little humorous undertone without mentioning how your mother-in-law might be another contributor.
The story doesn't end here, so let's all of us be a little more aware of - not only what we are chewing in our mouth, but also in our minds. I hope that these few pointers (with a possible exclusion of your mother-in-law) may come useful in some way, as you are thinking how to fix or prevent your high cholesterol.