Let’s get informed about cholesterol; for your health and wellbeing.
What is Cholesterol -- The Basics
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fatty substance. Found in your blood, cholesterol can come from two sources – your body and from the food you eat. It can be broken down into two types:
High- density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL)
Low- density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL)
The “Good” and “Bad” – Where Cholesterol Stands
LDL or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is considered the so-called “bad” cholesterol – making up most of your body’s cholesterol. Travelling through your blood vessels, this fat can build up plaque along the walls of your vessels. This plaque buildup makes it harder for blood to travel and can eventually become completely blocked. Blood flow to your heart and other organs can cause many health issues. High levels of LDL can raise your risk for stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.
The so-called good cholesterol, high- density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) absorbs LDL cholesterol sweeping it through the liver and out of the body. It is best to have a high level of HDL in order to lower your risk of stroke and heart disease.
Where Your Cholesterol Comes From
Your body produces most of your cholesterol – roughly 80% – and this happens naturally, no matter what you do. The rest of your cholesterol – 20% – comes from the food that you eat.
Foods to Have and to Throw
The 20% of your cholesterol makeup that you can control by food can be pivotal to having a healthy body and wellbeing. Most nutritionists recommend avoiding saturated fats and trans fats from your diet.
Health Canada has banned artificial trans fat from all food items – from September 2018 and being finalized as of September 2020. This includes Canadian-made, imported, and foods prepared in all food service establishments. Artificial trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to cooking oil – making it solid. These foods can be vegetable shortening, margarine or baked goods like biscuits, frozen pizza, microwave popcorn and fried fast foods.
Certain animal products can have a small amount of naturally occurring trans fat. This includes some beef, goat, lamb, dairy and oil products.
Avoid artificial trans fat in hard margarine, vegetable shortening and commercial baked goods like donuts and cookies. Always check the label!
There is still no final word on saturated fats – so it is only a caution for now. According to Canada Health, saturated fats are not good for your health and that nearly half of Canadians consume too much. Saturated fats are found in dairy, animal-based foods and oils.
Butter, cheese, whole milk, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, veal, palm oil, coconut oil, lard and shortening are some of the few.
Your blood pressure can be raised by having too much salt in your diet. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart and kidney disease. Always check the label, it is often hiding. It is recommended to keep it under 2,300 to 2, 400 milligrams a day.
Weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes - all linked to your sugar intake. Limit your sugar as much as possible. It may be hiding on a label so check for other sugars like corn sweetener or syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, maltose, and sucrose.
If you have a family history of heart disease or stroke you may need to be more aggressive when treating high LDL levels. Also included in a higher risk category are smokers, people with low HDL levels, men over 45, women over 55 and people with diabetes.
What You Need to Do - Keeping a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise, maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet. The Canadian food guide is a great place to learn more about keeping a healthy diet.
Have your cholesterol levels checked once every 5 years over the age of 20 through a screening test called lipid profile. Health experts recommend that women over 45 and men over 35 are screened even more frequently due to increased cholesterol issues.
Triglycerides are substances also measured, not a type of cholesterol but a fat that also circulates in your bloodstream.
Main Pointers on Managing Cholesterol
- Consume more soluble fiber – soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your bloodstream. If you cannot reach your daily soluble fiber goals, use a fiber supplement.
- Keep a healthy weight
- Get physical – exercise! Exercise can help raise your good cholesterol HDL levels
- Quit smoking – your blood pressure and circulation will improve, your lungs will function will increase and your chances for heart disease will dissipate.
- Curb your alcohol intake
- Limit your saturated fats
- Get rid of trans fats
- Choose polyunsaturated or monounsaturated
- Lower your salt intake
- Slow down your sugar intake
Before anything, your LDL levels should be maintained through a healthy lifestyle. If you cannot keep your levels at a healthy range, you will need to consult a doctor and possibly go on medication. Your doctor will choose the best medication for you. These medications might have side effects like cramping, diarrhea, stomach pain and joint pain.
The most common form of cholesterol medication and block the production of LDL cholesterol in your liver.
This medication will prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol from any foods that you consume.
These medications will most likely lower your LDL cholesterol levels or break them down.
Always remember that in order to stay healthy, you must stay informed. Keep on top of your cholesterol levels and keep fit!