Cholesterol: what its levels mean and what are the solutions to improve it

Cholesterol: what its levels mean and what are the solutions to improve it

It can be connected to cholesterol with fatty foods, but most of the waxy substance is produced by the body. The liver produces 75% of the cholesterol circulating in the blood. The remaining 25% comes from food.

At normal levels, cholesterol plays a very important role in helping cells do their job. But cholesterol levels are dangerously high in almost 94 million Americans.

Symptoms of high cholesterol

High cholesterol does not cause any symptoms. But it causes deep damage in the body. Over time, excess cholesterol can cause plaque buildup inside the arteries.

Known as atherosclerosisThis condition limits the space available for blood flow and can cause heart disease. The good news is that high cholesterol is easy to spot and there are many ways to lower it.

Cholesterol control

For people over 20 years cholesterol levels should be checked at least once every four to six years. This is done with a simple blood test known as a fasting lipid profile.

It measures the different forms of cholesterol circulating in the blood after avoiding food for 9 to 12 hours. The results show the levels of “bad” cholesterol, “good” cholesterol and triglycerides.

Cholesterol guidelines have changed over time. The most important factor is not necessarily measured by a number, but by the overall risk of heart disease and/or stroke.

“Bad” cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in the blood is carried by proteins called low density lipoproteins or LDL. It’s called bad cholesterol because it combines with other substances to clog the arteries.

A diet rich in saturated fat And trans fat tends to raise LDL cholesterol levels. For most people, an LDL score below 100 is healthy, but people with heart disease may need to take medication to lower their LDL.

good cholesterol

Up to one-third of blood cholesterol is transported by high-density lipoproteins, or HDL. It’s called good cholesterol because it helps eliminate bad cholesterol, preventing it from building up in the arteries.

The higher the HDL cholesterol level, the better. Otherwise, they are more likely to develop heart disease. Eating healthy fats, like olive oil, can help raise HDL cholesterol.


The body converts excess calories, sugar and alcohol into triglycerides, a type of fat that is carried in the blood and stored in fat cells throughout the body. People who are overweight, inactive, or who smoke or drink excessively tend to have high triglyceride levels, as do those on a very high-carb diet.

A triglyceride score of 150 or higher puts you at risk for metabolic syndrome, which is linked to heart disease and diabetes.

Total cholesterol

Total cholesterol measures the combination of LDL, HDL, and VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) in the blood.

THE VLDL it is a precursor of LDL, the bad cholesterol. Your total cholesterol level should be considered along with other heart attack risk factors.

Cholesterol in food

Cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs, shrimp, and lobster are no longer completely off limits. Research shows that the cholesterol we eat has only a small effect on blood cholesterol levels for most people.

Some people are “responders,” which means their blood levels rise after eating eggs. But for the most part, saturated fats and trans fats are the biggest concerns. Daily cholesterol limits are 300 mg for healthy people and 200 mg for those at higher risk. One egg contains 186 mg of cholesterol.

Cholesterol and family history

Cholesterol comes from two sources – the body and food – and either can contribute to high cholesterol. Some people inherit genes that cause them to produce too much cholesterol. For others, diet is the main culprit.

Saturated fats and cholesterol are found in foods of animal origin, including meatof eggs and of dairy products made with milk. In many cases, high cholesterol comes from a combination of diet and genetics.

What increases the risk?

Several factors can make the development of high cholesterol more likely: a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, a family history of high cholesterol, obesity and the age.

Cholesterol and gender

Until menopause, women generally have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. They also have higher levels of HDL cholesterol, the good kind. One of the reasons is the estrogen: The female sex hormone increases HDL cholesterol levels.

Estrogen production peaks during childbearing years and declines during menopause. After the age of 55, a woman’s risk of high cholesterol begins to increase.

Cholesterol and children

There is evidence that cholesterol can begin to clog arteries during childhood, leading to atherosclerosis and heart disease later in adulthood.

THE American Heart Association recommends that children and teens with high cholesterol take steps to lower it. Ideally, total cholesterol should be below 170 in people between the ages of 2 and 19.

Why high cholesterol is important

Hypercholesterolemia is one of the main risk factors for coronary disease, heart attacks and strokes. It also seems to increase the risk of his disease Alzheimer’s. As we saw earlier, high cholesterol leads to a buildup of plaque which narrows the arteries.

This is dangerous because it can restrict blood flow. If the blood supply to any part of the heart or brain is completely cut off, the result is a heart attack or stroke.

Cholesterol: Consume more fiber

Dietary changes offer a powerful way to fight high cholesterol. Some cereals are considered good for the heart. These are plant fibers.

Soluble fiber found in many foods helps lower LDL, the bad cholesterol. Good sources of soluble fiber include whole grain breads and cereals, oatmeal, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes like beans.

Cholesterol level

No more than 35% of daily calories should come from fat. But not all fats are created equal. Saturated fats (from animal products and tropical oils) raise LDL cholesterol. Trans fats create double trouble, raising bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol.

These two bad fats are found in many baked goods, fried foods (doughnuts, fries, potato chips), margarine and cookies. Unsaturated fats can lower LDL when combined with other healthy dietary changes. They are found in avocado, olive oil and peanut oil.

“Smart” protein

Meat and whole milk provide plenty of protein, but are also important sources of cholesterol. You may be able to lower your LDL cholesterol levels by switching to soy protein, such as tofu, in some meals.

Fish is another great option. Some varieties, like salmon, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve cholesterol levels. THE American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week.

low carb diet

There is growing evidence that low-carb diets may be better than low-fat diets at improving cholesterol levels.

In a two-year study funded by the United States National Institutes of Healthpeople who ate a low-carb diet had significantly better HDL (good cholesterol) levels than those who ate a low-fat diet.


For people who are overweight, it is recommended to work with a doctor to start a weight loss program. Losing weight can help lower triglyceride, LDL, and total cholesterol levels. Losing even a few pounds can also increase levels of good cholesterol (it tends to increase by one point for every 6 pounds lost).

No to tobacco

Quitting smoking is hard, but here’s another reason to try even harder. By quitting smoking, good cholesterol is likely to improve by up to 10%.


Starting an aerobic exercise program could increase good cholesterol by 5% in the first two months. Regular exercise also lowers bad cholesterol.

Choose an activity that increases your heart rate, such as running, swimming THE fast walk for at least 30 minutes most days of the week are beneficial. It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes straight. Two 15-minute walks work just as well.

Treatment: Drugs

If there is a family history of high cholesterol, diet and exercise may not be enough. In this case, medications can give cholesterol levels an extra boost.

Statins are usually the first choice. They block the production of cholesterol in the liver. Other options include cholesterol absorption inhibitors and bile acid resins. The doctor may recommend a combination of these drugs.

Treatment: Supplements

Certain dietary supplements can help improve cholesterol levels. These include plant sterols, barley and oats, fiber and green tea.

How low should prices be?

Many people are able to lower their cholesterol levels through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. But how low is that enough? Recent guidelines do not have a target number.

If you have pre-diabetes you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and they will likely give you a drug called a statin to lower your cholesterol.

Can the damage be repaired?

It takes years for high cholesterol to clog the arteries with plaque. But there is evidence that atherosclerosis can be reversed, at least to some extent.

THE dean ornishMD, has published several studies showing that a low-fat vegetarian diet, stress management, and moderate exercise can eliminate buildup inside the coronary arteries.

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