Forty-two million adults are said to have high cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. While it is beneficial and necessary in small doses, large quantities of “bad” cholesterol can clog arteries, resulting in coronary heart disease (CHD) (e.g. heart attacks) and stroke.
What is Cholesterol?
Created by the liver, cholesterol is produced to help the body function properly. A type of lipid or fatty substance, cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream by attaching itself to a protein, known together as lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are in part measured to assess heart disease risk and cholesterol levels. Two levels of lipoproteins, low-density (LDL), and high-density (HDL), define the risk. Low-density lipoprotein is responsible for the formation of plaque in the arteries and is often called “bad” cholesterol. High-density, or “good” cholesterol, does not form plaque and helps remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream.
High Cholesterol can be contributed to a number of factors including genes, family history, ethnicity, and lifestyle. Cholesterol can also be found in everyday foods (e.g. dairy, meat, and oils) and when consumed in excess, these foods can lead to higher levels of cholesterol.
How to Lower Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels can be treated through controlling blood lipids. Many factors are considered when treating cholesterol, including tobacco use, high blood pressure, family history, age, etc. Even if cholesterol-lowering medication is necessary, it is still important to eat healthy and be active.
Reducing saturated fats, trans-fatty acids (hydrogenated oils), and high-cholesterol, can reduce bad cholesterol. Foods such as fatty meat, chicken, eggs, and whole-milk dairy products are products full of cholesterol. Opting for nonfat milk or cheese, lean meats, fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna, and substituting olive oil for butter, or avocado in place of mayonnaise may help decrease or maintain cholesterol levels. Eating foods such as nuts, in moderation, can help absorb cholesterol.
The most important way to maintain a healthy balance of cholesterol is to get regular exercise, lose excess weight, reduce alcohol consumption, reduce stress levels, and maintain a tobacco-free lifestyle. These are also suggested as first steps from physicians before prescribing medication. If you make these lifestyle changes, dependency on medication could be removed. When all of these lifestyle changes are combined with a low-fat diet, reduction in cholesterol levels can happen. It is also important to understand that many people with a strong genetic predisposition need to be medicated to control their cholesterol, as diet and exercise cannot lower the levels enough.
By understanding cholesterol, individuals can make lifestyle changes to manage and help control their risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke.
This blog post along with many others are part of a wellness series to help educate employees, their family members, and the public. By no means does this post replace expert medical opinions. See more posts at danella.com/news.