Cholesterol: More H less L

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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.

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.118.008819

http://www.jofamericanscience.org/journals/am-sci/0201/05-mahongbao-0105.pdf

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-cholesterol

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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.