High Cholesterol and How It Affects You
High Cholesterol – High cholesterol can have very damaging consequences. The risk of having a heart attack or stroke is increased in people who have elevated levels of total cholesterol, LDL (so-called “bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides, and low levels of HDL (so-called “good” cholesterol).
Cholesterol and triglycerides, along with blood pressure measurements, are widely used to assess overall heart health. Other tests such as C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and sedimentation rate, along with results from a range of other tests, may be used to provide more information about additional processes such as inflammation, cancer or kidney disease that may be contributing to stress on your heart.
Low total cholesterol and LDL may increase your risk for premature birth and low birth weight in pregnancy, depression, anxiety, violent behavior and suicide. Low triglycerides and high HDL are not usually cause for concern.
What Your Doctor May Do – Medications
Your doctor may prescribe a prescription-only form of vitamin B3 or niacin, called Niaspan or a statin such as atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin or simvastatin. Statin drugs are effective for lowering LDL cholesterol levels but must be taken with the supplement coenzyme Q10 to avoid dangerous side effects.
What You Can Do – A modified diet may be one of the best ways to improve cholesterol levels. In many cases, diet and exercise alone can be as effective as cholesterol-lowering drugs. Reducing…
intake of fats, red meat and simple carbohydrates is important. Eating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats and omega-3 oils will help. Diets high in soluble fiber are also important in lowering cholesterol. In addition to the above dietary changes, cutting out foods that are high in carbohydrates may also help lower triglyceride levels.
Oatmeal is rich in a type of soluble fiber called beta glucan, which lowers LDL or “bad” cholesterol as well as total cholesterol, and elevates “good” HDL cholesterol. Gluten free Oatmeal is best.(Trader Joe’s has a great one)
Almonds are a good source of protein, fiber, zinc, selenium, copper, phosphorus, biotin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, folic acid and other antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Vitamin E protects the body’s cells; fighting aging, cancer and heart disease. Calcium, potassium and magnesium helps to prevent osteoporosis and the magnesium can regulate blood pressure.
Folic acid in almonds may help to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid thought to contribute to fatty plaque buildup by damaging blood vessels and potentially increasing cholesterol buildup. The fats contained in almonds (polyunsaturated fatty acids) are actually some of the most important to good health: they help keep blood vessels healthy by giving them their elasticity, but don’t affect LDL and HDL.
Apples are the richest pectin containing fruit, with the pectin content varying among varieties. The soluble fiber, pectin, reduces the amount of cholesterol the liver releases into the blood. Pectin increases acidity in the large intestines, regulates blood pressure, and removes toxins from the body. Quercitin, a flavonoid, and phenols are found in the skin of apples and protect against free radical damage caused by LDL. Drink cloudy apple juice instead of clear apple juice to maximize its flavonoid and phenol content.
Legumes like peas, beans, and lentils have very potent effects in lowering LDL cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. Beans are very high in fiber. Darker beans contain higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, with black beans having the highest levels. Black beans also contain high levels of folate, antioxidants.
Flax seeds and flax seed oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish oil. Flax seed also contains lignan, an antioxidant and phytoestrogen that scavenges free radicals and may be protective against certain cancers.
Garlic is a potent antioxidant that prevents LDL cholesterol from building up in the arteries by protecting it from free radical damage.
Soy is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and is low in saturated fat. Soy protein lowers both your total cholesterol and your LDL or bad cholesterol levels. It can be ingested in many forms including soy beverages, soy “meat” alternatives, tofu, tempeh and baked goods.
Supplements – Help reduce your LDL, and Cholesterol Levels
Aloe Vera is rich in phytosterols that protect against free radical damage.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that is critical to maintaining normal cell function in the process of energy metabolism, and Q10 levels are often lower in people with heart disease. In addition, statins deplete natural levels of Q10. Q10 supplementation can reduce the risk of heart attack and heart failure, by lowering blood pressure and preventing free radical damage to LDL cholesterol, which makes it stick to blood vessels. If you are taking a statin, Q10 supplementation can also reduce any potential side effects of the statin such as muscle pain.
Fenugreek seeds have been shown in clinical studies to reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing HDL cholesterol.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids may help to lower triglycerides. By preventing platelets from sticking together, omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Flax seed and garlic supplements contain many of the benefits of the foods (described above), but lack the added fiber.
Grapes have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Grape seed extract is very rich in antioxidants and may help protect against damage caused by free radicals.
Psyllium husk, or Metamucil, has long been used as a traditional medicine to aid digestive health and relieve constipation. It is very rich in soluble fiber, which lowers LDL cholesterol.
Vitamin B3, also called niacin, is the most effective known compound for raising levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
Niacin also reduces LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Just walking for 30 minutes daily can both decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. By losing weight and becoming active, triglyceride levels should also drop.
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Quitting smoking will also be beneficial in lowering all heart panel blood results.