- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
How to Lower High Cholesterol Levels Before It’s Too Late
According to the American Heart Association, too much cholesterol in the body can lead to heart disease and stroke—rated American’s No. 1 and No.3 killers respectively. These diseases are often perceived as age-related but such diseases start young with bad eating and lifestyle habits. Kidshealth.org cautions that with the increasing numbers of childhood obesity, more and more kids are at risk for cardiovascular diseases. According to World Heath Organization, an estimated 22 million children under five are estimated to be overweight worldwide. The US Surgeon General has more bad news—the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescent has tripled since 1980.
What is Cholesterol?
The liver produces a lipid (waxy substance) called cholesterol in the body and is essential for making vitamin D and some hormones, building cell walls and creating bile salt to digest fats. Cholesterol also comes from the food you eat but since the liver produces 1,000 milligrams of cholesterol levels a day, you need very little cholesterol from food.
Types of Cholesterol: Good, Bad and Ugly
Cholesterol can only travel in the blood stream when they piggy-back on a protein, forming a compound called lipoprotein. There are two basic lipoproteins: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) also known as good cholesterol and Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as the bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol sweeps the blood of excess fat and cholesterol while bad cholesterol builds up plaque in the arteries, giving rise to heart diseases. A lipid profile details the composition of good and bad cholesterol and another form of ugly bad fat--triglycerides—the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and in the body. And just how ugly is triglycerides? Calories from fats and carbohydrates not used immediately by the body are converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
Ready to check your cholesterol levels?
Acceptable: Total Cholesterol –less than 170 mg
LDL Cholesterol—Less than 110 mg
High: Total Cholesterol—200 mg or greater
LDL Cholesterol—130 mg or greater
Although heredity can predispose you to high cholesterol level, other factors like obesity, a diet high in saturated and trans fat, unhealthy habits like smoking and a sedentary lifestyle can also put you at risk. So, get off the couch (potato slouch grows cholesterol unwittingly), and get some good-for-your-heart exercise and activities.
Raise Your Good Cholesterol
Diet plays a huge part in regulating cholesterol levels and since eating habits are formed early in life, it is imperative to adopt healthy eating habits to stop the build-up of unhealthy bad cholesterol. To obtain a healthy lipid profile, the American Heart Association recommends a low-fat, no trans fat and low cholesterol foods such as these on a daily basis:
- · 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables
- · 6 or more servings of whole grain products as bread, cereal, rice and pasta, including whole grains
- · 2 to 3 servings of fat-free or low-milk products
- · 5 to 6 total ounces of lean meats and poultry
Foods rich in monounsaturated fats help to get rid of bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol works to sweep the arteries of fat deposit and bad cholesterol. Increase your good cholesterol and they will police the bad cholesterol for you—simple and you have these delicious selection of food to thank:
- · 2 servings of grilled or baked fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna each week
- · Beans and peas
- · 4 to 5 servings of nuts and seeds a week
- · Unsaturated vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive and safflower
- · Butter and margarine made of monounsaturated fats
- · Avocado
An active and healthy lifestyle can help you maintain a good cholesterol level. Regular aerobic exercises like walking, biking, and swimming can strengthen your heart, lower cholesterol and keep weight in check. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, at least 5 times a week. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, so quit or don’t even start the habit.
Weight often contributes to high cholesterol levels. While exercise can keep weight under control, regulating food portion size can also help to reduce unwanted calories. Keep portion small, eat at regular intervals to keep metabolism up.
Sounds like a plan? Good, get going! Make smart food choices, enjoy calories-burning activities (yes, housework burns calories too) and live healthy (no smoking) and you will have lessen the odds of becoming a statistics. Even, if you’ve already acquired some bad cholesterol, it’s never too late—start now and do some damage control.