High cholesterol has been a cause for concern for those who understand its impact on the heart disease. It is one of the biggest risk factors in heart disease. Fortunately, cholesterol can be lowered easily by natural ways and not treatment is required if lifestyle and dietary changes are made in early stages.
Although how high is high has recently become a subject of debate, yet there is a consensus that keeping cholesterol levels within the prescribed limit is much safer than letting it rise. Current lifestyle has contributed to the rise in heart diseases around the globe and more and more people are becoming aware of the changes that they may have to do to avoid heart diseases.
If your cholesterol levels have been found to be on the higher side, then there is no need to panic. You need to find out why your cholesterol high. Most likely it is due to the kind of food you regularly take. By making suggested changes you can lower your cholesterol naturally.
Why Lowering Cholesterol is Important?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your blood which your body needs to continue building healthy cells. Our body is so well designed that it produces the required cholesterol.
Sometimes, our bodies make more cholesterol than we really need, and this excess cholesterol circulates in the bloodstream. Continuous production of high levels of cholesterol can pose serious health hazards
Plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains do not contain cholesterol. Cholesterol usually builds up in the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body (walls of your arteries). This buildup of cholesterol is called plaque.
The plaques build up on the walls over time narrow the arteries. Narrowing of the arteries is called atherosclerosis or hardening of arteries. This reduces blood supply to vital organs of the body and can result in heart failure, brain damage, kidney failure and blindness.
The two main types of cholesterol are HDL and LDL. Others are VLDL and triglycerides. Before we go into the details of each type of cholesterol let us first understand how cholesterol flows into the bloodstream. Our body is capable of producing the required cholesterol to make hormones, bile acids and vitamin D. These are the main functions of cholesterol. Cholesterol is produced in the liver. From there it gets attached to a protein and move in the bloodstream. This combination of cholesterol and protein packages called lipoproteins.
These are classified as High Density Lipoproteins (HDL), Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL), or Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) depending on the protein contents in relation to the fat.
Both LDL and VLDL are bad cholesterol. Large amount of LDL in the blood can build up plaque in the arteries. The arteries get clogged and probabilities of heart disease increase.
VLDL also does the same damage but the protein contain is less, therefore it takes longer to build the plaques. Triglycerides are the fat that is carried by VLDL. High amounts of triglycerides can lead to diabetes, heart and kidney diseases.
HDL is the good type of cholesterol. It helps remove LDL and other bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. Higher the amount of HDL in the blood better it is for the health.
It therefore becomes important to maintain an ideal of HDL to LDL ratio for healthy living.
Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood. Total cholesterol should not exceed 220 ml/dl for healthy living. A regular checkup (once in 2-5 years depending on your age) is necessary to reduce the probabilities of heart attacks. Early detection can help in controlling it. Following are guidelines for cholesterol levels in adults.
Total Cholesterol below 180 ml/dl is ideal. 180-199 is acceptable and 200-219 is considered borderline. Anything above 220 is high cholesterol. Ideal value for HDL should be above 50 ml/dl. Anything below 35 ml/dl is too low. 36-49 are acceptable levels of HDL. In terms of LDL any value below 130 ml/dl is good. And any value above 160 is considered too high.
What are the Cholesterol Ranges?
A blood test called lipid profile reports the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your bloodstream. Following numbers are current guidelines for cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Below 200 mg/dL Normal
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above High
Below 70 mg/dL Ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease
Below 100 mg/dL Ideal for people at risk of heart disease
100-129 mg/dL Near ideal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very high
Below 40 mg/dL (men)
Below 50 mg/dL (women)
50-59 mg/dL Better
60 mg/dL and above Best
Below 150 mg/dL Normal
150-199 mg/dL Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL High
500 mg/dL and above Very high
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a triglyceride level of 100 mg/dL or lower is considered “optimal.”
What are the Symptoms of High Cholesterol?
Most alarming symptoms of high cholesterol are heart attack and stroke. These are the extreme cases when the high cholesterol has remained unidentified for very long periods. Long periods here means decades.
How does it remain unidentified for decades? it is because it typically has no symptoms. It is only your blood test that will reveal whether you have high cholesterol or not. However there are risk factors that can indicate that you must check your cholesterol levels.
During this no symptom period, you will be gradually developing heart disease due to high cholesterol and catch other symptoms that give you an indication of high cholesterol. Following conditions should alert you to check your cholesterol levels:
- Chest pain - The typical chest pain is called Angina which occurs after your body exerts physical activity for some time
- Neck, jaw, upper abdomen, or back pain - Though these pains can be caused by other conditions as well but a blood test is warranted to relate it to cholesterol and heart disease
- Numbness or coldness in your extremities- Check your lipid profiles
- Nausea - Nausea can be a symptom for a number of health conditions but you must do a blood test to rule out high cholesterol
- Extreme fatigue - Fatigue for no apparent reason indicates possibilities of high cholesterol. Peripheral arterial disease can cause cramps and fatigue. Test your blood
- Shortness of breath - indicate heart or lung problems. Blood test will reveal the real cause.
If you get any of the above symptoms and have never done you blood tests before or your earlier blood tests have shown normal lipid profile, your doctor may recommend blood tests to check cholesterol levels. Go for it and protect yourself from worsening the condition. High cholesterol and heart diseases are reversible, so the earlier you know it better it is and the easier it is to reverse it.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
Genetics play a vital role in your high cholesterol risks. If your parents had high cholesterol then you should be cautious. However, your lifestyle and diet are today the biggest contributor to the high cholesterol and other conditions such as diabetes type 2 and kidney and heart diseases.
Let us look at these variety of risk factors that may contribute to your high cholesterol levels.
- Your Diet - If your diet is high in saturated fat contents then your blood cholesterol level will go up. Certain food items are naturally high in cholesterol. Consuming those food items also will raise your total cholesterol levels. Reduction in consumption of these high high saturated fat and cholesterol containing food will gradually bring your blood cholesterol levels down.
- Excess Weight - Obesity and overweight causes many health problems. Heart disease is one such obvious condition caused by overweight. Overweight also raises your cholesterol levels. The bad cholesterol or LDL levels increase in your blood as your weight begins to get into overweight category. Lowering your weight will reduce your cholesterol and increase your HDL levels which will protect you from heart diseases.
- Lack of Physical Activities - Lack of physical activity has become a norm for today's modern lifestyle. We live in air-conditioned houses, drive air conditions cars to work in the air conditioned offices. there is hardly any physical activity. This kind of sedentary lifestyle had adverse effect on your health and you will develop heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and scores of other health conditions. Get active and lower your cholesterol.
- Your Age and Gender This is one area that is beyond your control. As you grow older your cholesterol levels rise, so you will have to become more active and control your diet. If you are a woman then after menopause your LDL levels may begin to rise.
Natural Remedies for High Cholesterol
It is possible to lower cholesterol without any medication. It requires strict discipline, that is all. Even medical practitioners are recommending TLC ( Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes). The Lifestyle changes required are diet, weight reduction, exercise and quit smoking. This method is promoted by the National Cholesterol Education Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
- TLC Diet - TLC diet requires you to avoid saturated fats and trans fats and eat more fiber rich food. Soluble fiber helps to clear up the LDL. You have to reduce animal fat and full fat milk products.You can replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats such as canola oil and safflower oil. If possible completely avoid them. The diet changes work with different degrees of success in different people. However, with weight reduction it always works well for most people.
- Weight Loss - Weight loss is essential to lower your cholesterol. Weight especially around your belly must be reduced. If you are overweight then it immediately begins to help lower LDL as your weight goes down. It is very important for those who have high triglycerides and low HDL. You must focus to reduce the circumference of your waist. It is dangerous to have more than 40 inches of waist for men and more than 35 inches for women.
- Exercise - Exercise is very important as it increases HDL levels. HDL is good cholesterol which kills LDL Exercise also helps to reduce weight and the belly fat.
So, if you follow the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes sincerely then you may not require any medication to lower your cholesterol levels.