Your body needs some cholesterol to function efficiently. However, too much cholesterol in your body can be harmful.
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is produced in your body. It is also found in many foods that come from animal sources. Fish, milk, poultry and eggs all contain cholesterol. Excess cholesterol in your body will accumulate inside your arteries, causing them to narrow. This can put you at risk for heart disease. Hence, it is important for you to know how to lower your cholesterol.
Good and Bad Cholesterol
High Density Lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, is known as “good” cholesterol, because high levels of HDL can protect you against heart attack.
HDL cholesterol assists in clearing cholesterol from your body, by transporting cholesterol from your bloodstream to your liver. After the cholesterol is carried to your liver, it is disposed.
According to the American Heart Association, experts believe that high levels of HDL cholesterol inhibit the build-up of arterial plaque.
An accumulation of plaque increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
Low Density Lipoprotein, or LDL, is commonly known as “bad” cholesterol. LDL carries unhealthy cholesterol from the liver to other parts of your body. A high LDL level can increase the build-up of cholesterol on the walls of your arteries. This condition increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The accumulation of plaque narrows your arteries and makes them less flexible. This unfortunate circumstance can often result in blood clots.
Cholesterol screening can be helpful in your efforts in lowering the cholesterol levels. There are many easy, quick cholesterol screening kits that are available. These kits are usually inexpensive and well worth the money.
Here are some recommended guidelines for the evaluation of cholesterol:
- Total cholesterol levels should be less than 200. Anything in the range of 200 to 239 is considered borderline. A score above 240 is high.
- A desirable level of HDL cholesterol is above 60. Anything lower than 40 is considered too low.
- An optimal level of LDL cholesterol is less than 100. Borderline high is considered at levels between 130 to 159. A high level of LDL is between 160 and 189. Anything over 190 is considered very high.
The above figures, obtained from the National Cholesterol Education Program, are references for risk factors that lead to coronary heart disease.
It’s also a good idea to monitor your cholesterol if you have any of the following conditions:
- High blood pressure – Typical high blood pressure is a reading above 140 Systolic and 90 Diastolic.
- You suffer from diabetes.
- You have a family history of heart attack.
- You are a smoker.
- Your previous screening reflected high cholesterol.
How to Lower Your Cholesterol?
The most effective way to reduce your cholesterol is to eat healthy. A diet low in saturated and trans fats will help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels in your body.
Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Also, add fiber to your diet. Beans, oats and peas are all high in fiber.
Moderate your consumption of red meat. For a healthier alternative, you can substitute meat with broiled fish.
Frequent exercise is also an important ingredient in the fight against high cholesterol. Frequent physical activity increases your HDL cholesterol, while lowering your LDL level.
Quit smoking. Tobacco significantly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, even in people with low cholesterol.
Lose weight if you are overweight. Losing excess weight will increase your HDL cholesterol, and decrease your LDL levels.
Medications for High Cholesterol
When lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your cholesterol, you may need to consult with your physician about medications. There are several medications that can be effective in lowering cholesterol. These medications may be prescribed individually or in combination with other drugs.
Your doctor will ultimately determine how to lower your cholesterol depending upon your condition. If you are prescribed medication, you will still need to monitor your diet and participate in regular physical activity.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States. Over 2000 Americans die everyday due to heart disease.
Although these statistics are alarming, there is some good news. Lifestyle changes and proper dietary choices have proven to be effective in lowering your cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease. It’s up to you to take action to increase your longevity and live longer.