Understanding Cholesterol 

Cholesterol is synonymous with negative connotations, but it isn't all bad. Cholesterol is an essential fat that provides support in the membranes of cells in our bodies. Some cholesterol comes from diet and some is made by the liver, and can't dissolve in blood, so transport proteins carry it where it needs to go.
Cholesterol levels should be measured at least once every five years in everyone over the age of 20.  It is recommend that men 35 and older & women 45 and older be more frequently screened for lipid disorders.

The Lipoprotein Profile Includes:

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called "bad" cholesterol)
  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called "good" cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides (fats carried in the blood from the food we eat. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.)

LDL Cholesterol

This type of cholesterol collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing the blockages ofatherosclerosis (Hardening of the Arteries).  Higher LDL levels put you at greater risk for a heart attack from a sudden blood clot in an artery narrowed by atherosclerosis.
LDL cholesterol moving through the bloodstream can deposit in the walls of arteries. This process can start as early as childhood or adolescence.  When this takes place, our white blood cells try to digest the LDL, to protect the blood vessels.  During this process, the white blood cells convert theLDL to a toxic (oxidized) form, causing more white blood cells along with other cells migrate to the area, causing steady low-grade inflammation in the artery wall.  Over time, more LDL cholesterol and cells collect in the area and this ongoing process creates a bump in the artery wall known asplaque, which is made of cholesterol, cells, and other debris.  If this process continues,  the plaque grows and will slowly block the artery.  An even greater danger than this slow blockage, is a sudden rupture of the surface of the plaque, making a blood clot form on the ruptured area, that can cause a heart attack.

LDL CholesterolLDL-Cholesterol Category
Less than 100Optimal
100 - 129Near optimal/above optimal
130 - 159Borderline high
160 - 189High
190 and aboveVery high

HDL Cholesterol


When it comes to HDL cholesterol or the "good" cholesterol,  the higher the number, the lower your risk. This is because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the "bad" cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries. The table below explains what the numbers mean. 
HDL CholesterolHDL-Cholesterol Category
60 and aboveHigh; Optimal; associated with lower risk
Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in womenLow; considered a risk factor for heart disease

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and the body. A high triglyceride level has been linked to higher risk of coronary artery disease.

TriglyceridesTriglyceride Category
Less than 150Normal
150 - 199Mildly High
200 - 499High
500 or higherVery high

Total Cholesterol

Your total blood cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and other lipid components. Doctors recommend total cholesterol levels below 200.

Total CholesterolCategory
Less than 200Desirable
200 - 239Mildly High
240 and aboveHigh

What LDL Cholesterol Test Results Mean 

Although lower is better, your own LDL goal depends on your risk for heart disease.
  • People at high risk of heart disease, or with known heart disease, LDL less than 100 mg/dL is advised.
  • People at moderate-to-high risk, LDL less than 130 mg/dL is the goal.
  • People at low-to-moderate risk should have a LDL goal of less than 160 mg/dL.

What You Can Do To Lower LDL Cholesterol

Did you know, a few simple tweaks to your meals may be enough to lower your cholesterol to a healthy level and help you stay off medications? Using certain foods in your daily meals can lower your LDL cholesterol and the following section provides many ideas of food sources that  will work wonders for you.

Soluble fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol.
Oats are the grain with the highest level of soluble fiber. Oatmeal will reduce your LDL (low-density lipoprotein),  or the "bad" cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 6 grams of fiber.  Eating Oat Bran works well, along with these foods rich in soluble fiber:


  • Kidney Beans
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Barley
  • Prunes
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Sweet Bell Peppers: Red, Green, Orange or Yellow
  • Beans/Legumes: Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Lima Beans, Chickpeas, Black-Eyed Peas, Navy Beans & Northern Beans.
  • Ground Psyllium Seeds (1 Tbsp. of can provide more fiber than any legume, grain, fruit or vegetable available. This is often found in products such as Metamucil.)

Eat Foods High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Seafood & Omega-3s fatty acids are missing from our meals, and they help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels while raising "good" HDL cholesterol levels. Omega-3s are found primarily in seafood with salmon being one of the best sources. You can also find it in flax seed, Omega-3 enriched eggs and in supplement form.  Bake or grill the fish to avoid extra fats.
Doctors recommend eating at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in:

  • Mackerel
  • Lake Trout
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Albacore Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Halibut
You can also take an omega-3 or fish oil supplement to get some of the benefits, but you won't get other nutrients in fish, like selenium which has attracted attention because of it's antioxidantproperties. Antioxidants protect cells from damage and reduce the odds of certain cancers.

Eat Foods Rich In Polyunsaturated Fats

Eating certain nuts can reduce blood cholesterol and help keep blood vessels healthy.  According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating about a handful (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day of most nuts will reduce your risk of heart disease.  All nuts are high in calories, so a handful will do. Avoid eating too many nuts so you do not gain weight. The best nuts to use are:

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Soy Protein

Use Olive Oil 

Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol but leave your "good" HDL cholesterol untouched.  The Food and Drug Administration recommends using around 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day in place of other fats in your meal plan to get it's heart-healthy benefits. You can use it to saute vegetables in, add it to a marinade, or mix it with vinegar as a salad dressing.  Choose extra-virgin olive oil, as the oil is less processed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants.

Lower Cholesterol & Blood Pressure With Spirulina

Spirulina can lower blood pressure and cholesterol by adding just one tablespoon daily, and it has more protein than red meat.  This Blue-green algae is also used as a source of B-vitamins, iron, weight loss, ADHD, hayfever, diabetes, stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression,  PMS and other women’s health issues.

Eat Foods With Added Plant Sterols or Stanols

Orange juice and yogurt drinks with added plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10%. The amount of daily plant sterols needed is at least 2 grams equaling about two 8-ounce servings of plant sterol-fortified orange juice a day.
Plant sterols or stanols in fortified foods don't appear to affect levels of triglycerides or of high-density lipoprotein HDL, the "good" cholesterol.

Other Changes You Can Make To Your Life

Cut back on cholesterol by watching your total fat intake, especially saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats, like those in meat, full-fat dairy products and some oils, raise your cholesterol. Trans fats, which are sometimes found in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes, are particularly bad for your cholesterol levels. They also raise LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, and lower HDL, the "good" cholesterol.

 

Eat More Fruits & Vegetables

In addition to adding fiber to your meals, fruits and vegetables contain no cholesterol.  Everyone knows that a nice salad is a healthy part of any meal, until you dump a bunch of high fat salad dressing on it. So I recommend using Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressings or my Light Tofu Caesar Salad Dressing.

Other Ideas

  • Avoid Fried and Fast Foods 
  • Grill, Bake or Broil Your Meat 
  • Use Sweets In Moderation

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