So what is cholesterol?? When we go get our
yearly physicals and the doctor tells us our LDL and HDL levels what do these
numbers really mean?? We need cholesterol for bodily functions, but our
interpretation is that cholesterol is ALL bad. So let’s take a look at the role
it plays in our bodies.
Cholesterol is found in all cells of the body.
It is a wax-like substance that travels in the bloodstream. Furthermore, it
travels through the bloodstream in small packages that are called lipoproteins.
These are packages consist of lipid (fat) in the inside and protein on the outside.
There are two types of packages which include low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). When your blood is drawn, the doctors is
checking your lipid profile. Another part of this blood panel includes checking
your triglycerides. These carry fat to your blood. Sugars and alcohol are
converted to triglycerides and then stored in the body as fat.
Here’s the scoring:
Total cholesterol scores are
considered best at 200 mg/dL or below
Borderline from 200-239 mg/dL
High at 240 mg/dL or above
Having high cholesterol in your blood doesn’t
necessary have any signs or symptoms. However, having high cholesterol can lead
to coronary heart disease. The higher your LDL, the higher the risk for heart
disease. The higher the HDL in your blood, the lesser the risk is for heart
disease. Plaque builds up in the arteries which
is made up of cholesterol, fat, and calcium. This plaque can break open and
cause a blood clot, which then can block blood flow to the heart, which then
can cause a heart attack.
The following are some tips for
lowering your cholesterol…
Obviously, food choices come
into play. Keep an eye out for red meat and dairy products. Fried foods and
snack type foods like crackers have quite a bit of trans fat which increases
the bad cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial. These omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL
cholesterol and help to increase HDL. Certain types of fish such as salmon,
mackerel and herring, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other good include walnuts,
almonds and ground flaxseeds. Soluble fiber helps lower LDL levels. Good
sources of this include lentils, vegetables, fruits, and brans. Whey protein
helps to lower LDL levels too.
Exercise is extremely important as well. Even
moderate levels of physical activity can help raise HDL (the good kind). This
sums up to about thirty minutes per day (at least).
Smoking is not good for cholesterol levels.
Quitting this habit becomes necessary and will help reduce blood pressure,
better your HDL level, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Excess weight is also associated with higher
cholesterol levels. Shedding pounds can improve cholesterol levels. Finally,
regular alcohol consumption is associated with heart problems, so drinking in
moderation or less can help lower cholesterol as well.
Making the appropriate lifestyle changes
becomes important when trying to keep a healthy total cholesterol reading. Making
sustainable lifestyle changes is advised. Having good cholesterol is a benefit
that is not determined by that scale. Small changes do add up. If you haven’t
lately, you should have your yearly physical done and make note of your HDL and
LDL levels so that you are more aware of your body, its internal health, and
what changes you may need to make to better improve not only your healthy but
your quality of life.
About the Author
Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY’s Fit. She has an M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, is a current candidate for her Doctorate in Health & Human Performance, and she’s an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She’s also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor.