Cholesterol is a fatty substance, otherwise known as a lipid, that is necessary in order for your body to produce hormones and maintain the integrity of nerve cells.  Cholesterol that ends up in your blood comes from the building blocks of food, otherwise known as fats, carbohydrates and proteins, that your liver processes  after you eat. Hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone are produced by the synthesis of cholesterol, so our bodies do need cholesterol in order to function.  However, one of the things that is important to understand is that there are two types of cholesterol.  When you see your doctor each year for a physical, cholesterol is generally checked through a blood tests. Understanding the two types of cholesterol and what your "numbers" mean is important. Today we’ll look at an introduction to cholesterol, and then talk about some of the ways you can have "good cholesterol levels" and how to lower your LDL cholesterol. Let’s get started.

HDL (good) Cholesterol
This type of cholesterol acts as a "protective" type of cholesterol. One way you can remember which type is good and which type is "bad" cholesterol, is to correlate the "H" in the "HDL" with happy. So I always think of HDL as the "good" or "happy" cholesterol. High levels of the HDL cholesterol according to doctors can protect your heart from heart attack whereas low levels, usually less than 40mg/dl may increase your risk of developing heart disease. There are also some medical practitioners who surmise that the HDL cholesterol can act as a "transporter" in the body, that is may carry cholesterol away from arteries and into the processing plant organ in your system which is known as the liver and then into the gastrointestinal tract and passed out of the body.

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

LDL, or low density lipoprotein is the bad type of cholesterol. You may also hear of this type of cholesterol referred to as "low down dirty" cholesterol, which is simply another way to try to remember which type of cholesterol is good versus which one is "bad". Since we are talking about the harmful type of cholesterol, try to think of the LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol as a type of "glue" that can actually clog up the walls of your arteries that supply your heart, brain and other vital organs with the blood and oxygen that you need to survive. When the artery walls get "clogged up" with the LDL cholesterol that is sticky like glue, there are substances called plaque which can form. The plaque can then build up along with the glue, think of the LDL as the glue itself, and the plaque as pieces which stick to the glue and then together they can clog your arteries and cause a clot.  The narrowing of the arteries causes a condition that is referred to as atherosclerosis, which means literally, hardening of the arteries.  So in these narrowed, hardened arteries, if a clot which has been building up in your body, tears off or breaks loose, you can suffer a heart attack or even a stroke. So it’s important to know what you can do to lower cholesterol. (At least the "bad" kind").

Photo: Yellow color shows
cholesterol build up in the artery

best-ways-to-reduce-cholesterol Best Way to Lower Your Cholesterol:

1. Modify your Diet:  High cholesterol numbers are increased by the wrong kinds of fats in your diet. So it’s important to limit saturated fats. Of particular danger is any type of food that you eat that contains trans-saturated fats or anything with the word hydrogenated in it. If you see a food label that has hydrogenated in it, put it back on the shelf.

2. Include Good Fats in Your Diet: Fats that are known as monosaturated fats can decrease the inflammatory process in your body and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. So include healthy portions of good fats, like olive and canola oils, and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Don’t overdo it, as fats are high in calories, but do include appropriate serving sizes of these healthy fats in your daily meal plan.

Salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed oil are all good sources of omega three fatty acids.  If using nuts as a snack, count out the number that is one serving size and put them in a plastic bag so that you’re not tempted to overeat.  You can also add ground flaxseed to yogurt, one of my favorites is the Greek style of plain yogurt that I sweeten with just a touch of honey. Add the ground flaxseed and you have not only a good source of nutrition and a healthy fats, but a delicious and tasty treat.

3. Consider including foods that contain phytosterols which can block the absorption of cholesterol. Products you may find in your local grocery store that include this substance include: Minute Maid Heart Wise Orange Juice, CocoaVia chocolate bars, and Benecol Light Spread. Keep in mind again serving sizes as you don’t want to overindulge in a product just because it contains some things that can be helpful.

4. Add fiber to your diet: Fiber serves many purposes in the body. With regards to cholesterol though, here is  how it can help. Soluble fiber can help by keeping cholesterol in the foods you eat from being absorbed in your intestinal tract.  Some studies have shown that it is possible to lower LDL cholesterol levels in the body by eating 10-25 grams of soluble fiber a day.  The soluble fiber appears to only affect or lower the "bad" cholesterol, while leaving the HDL or "good" cholesterol relatively unchanged. Foods you can eat that contain sources of soluble fiber include: peas, dried beans, psyllium seeds, oats, barley, grapefruits and oranges.

5. Eat More Whole Grains:  Cut down or eliminate things with white flour or foods such as white rice and replace them with brown rice and whole wheat breads. This not only can help reduce blood sugar spikes: white bread and white rice and things such as these can cause large amounts of sugar to be "dumped" into your system which initially can give you a surge of energy but then send your blood sugar levels and your energy levels crashing down.  Alternatively the brown and/or whole grain products are absorbed more slowly into your system. And as an added benefit because you don’t get the insulin and blood sugar to spike, the whole grain products can prevent cholesterol from being produced in the first place.

6. Exercise: Getting off the couch and moving has many benefits. Weight loss in and of itself can help improve cholesterol levels.

7. Know your Numbers: Get copies of your laboratory tests from your doctor and keep in your personal medical file. You are keeping your own copies of your lab work aren’t you? Don’t rely on what your doctor’s office tells you once a year about your cholesterol numbers. Ask for copies of your blood work, i.e.: lab work, and learn more about what your numbers mean and monitor your progress.  You keeping copies of your lab work is always a good idea since doctor’s offices may close or records may be lost or displaced. 

 

Start today by incorporating these cholesterol lowering tips into your lifestyle. These are some of the Best Ways You Can Lower Your Cholesterol and in doing so,  also lower your LDL cholesterol which can make you much healthier, and reduce your chances of dying from a heart attack or stroke.