The Low Down on Cholesterol

two people holding chips and fried chicken
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Cholesterol has received a bad reputation over the last few decades.  The truth is that cholesterol is needed for many of our bodily functions.  These functions are essential for your health.

Cholesterol is needed to:

  • Produce certain hormones
  • Build the structure of every cell wall
  • Assist in the process of digestion and absorption
  • As a Co-factor to make bile
  • Synthesize vitamin D

As you can see,  we need some cholesterol in our diet in order to be healthy.  Unfortunately, the foods that are available to us the most are usually higher in cholesterol. Fast food restaurants that serve a high amount of processed meats and dairy products are now a common source of meals for most Americans.  The best way to take control of your heart health is knowing what cholesterol is doing to your body and getting your lipids levels checked regularly.

1.) How much cholesterol should I eat daily?

Try to limit daily cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day or less. But as mentioned above some cholesterol is good for you.

2.) What blood test is used to determine my cholesterol level?

A lipid panel is a test that measures fats and fatty substances that are circulating in your blood. Lipids include cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

3.) What are normal lipid panel results?

LIPID PANEL RESULTS Optimal Borderline High Risk
Cholesterol <200mg/dl 200-240mg/dl >240mg/dl
LDL <100mg/dl 130-160mg/dl >190mg/dl
HDL 40-60mg/dl NA NA
Triglycerides <150mg/dl NA >150mg/dl

*A result in the borderline or high risk levels does not necessarily mean that you need pharmaceutical interventions.  These results should be discussed with you primary care physician to determine an appropriate plan of care.

4.) What foods are high in cholesterol?

  • Egg yolks
  • Organ meats
  • Full fat dairy products
  • Processed meats: bacon, sausage, deli meats
  • Shellfish
  • Cheese
  • Fried foods
aged cheese close up dairy product
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

5.) What does LDL mean?

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol. Elevated LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Lipoproteins are the form in which lipids are transported in the blood. Low-density lipoproteins transport cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body.

6.) How do I lower my LDL levels?

  • Eat more fiber: Research shows that consuming more fiber— especially soluble fiber found in fruits, beans and oats — can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Increase physical activity: Becoming more physically active is an excellent way to lower cholesterol levels. High-intensity aerobic exercise seems to be the most effective way to reduce LDL.
  • Lose weight: Dropping excess body weight is one of the best ways to lower cholesterol levels. It can reduce LDL while increasing HDL, which is optimal for health.
  • Increase dietary omega-3s: Consuming more omega-3-rich foods like wild-caught salmon or taking omega-3 supplements like fish oil pills have been shown to reduce LDL and raise HDL levels.
  • Eat more produce: Research shows that people who consume more fruits and vegetables have lower LDL cholesterol levels and are less likely to develop heart disease than those who eat fewer.
appetite apple close up delicious
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

7.) What is HDL?

High-density lipoprotein cholesterol. HDLs transport cholesterol from the tissues of the body to the liver, so the cholesterol can be eliminated in the bile. HDL cholesterol is therefore considered the ‘good’ cholesterol: The higher the HDL cholesterol level, the lower the risk of coronary artery disease.

8.) How do I improve my HDL?

  • The best way to increase your HDL is to get moving!  A reduction in sedentary activity is a great way to increase your healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Lower intake of saturated fats and trans fats
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids daily
  • Increase soluble fiber intake: oats, bran, whole grains, apples, and peas for example
bunch of nuts served on bowls
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

 

If you haven’t had your cholesterol checked within the past year or two, it’s important that you do.  If your cholesterol is higher than you would like, give us a call to make an appointment.  We can help you make dietary changes to get those numbers under control and work toward great heart health!