What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in blood which is essential for our body in right amount but can be harmful in large numbers.
Except for our brain, our body makes its own cholesterol. Our diet also contributes to our choles- terol levels. Plant-based foods lack cholesterol. Animal origin foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy are common sources.
“Phytosterols in plants are similar to cholesterol, but help lower our cholesterol levels.”
Is Cholesterol bad for me?
In right optimal amount, it is essential. However, in excessive amounts, it can deposit in blood vessels, cells and liver causing heart attack, stroke, fatty liver and obesity.
It is needed to make cells, hormones (estrogens, progesterone and testosterone), vitamins A, D, E, K, and nerves.
What do my numbers mean?
Your cholesterol test contains many numbers, and it can be very confusing for many of us. Let me try to make it easier for you to understand.
What is Total cholesterol?
This is a sum of all different kinds of cholesterol in your blood.
Optimal levels are below 200 mg/dL. However, knowing just your total, is just not accurate and can often be misleading. A high total cholesterol can be purely from high levels of HDL, a good cholesterol. A normal total cholesterol may have low HDL which is unhealthy for heart.
What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the most common fat in our body and is harmful in high numbers.
Optimal levels are below 150 mg/dL. Common sources are oil, butter, margarine, excess sugars and alcohol. Excess triglycerides can cause heart disease, stroke, and death. To lower triglycerides, reduce simple carbohydrates and fats from your diet and cut back on alcohol.
What is VLDL?
VLDL or very low density lipoproteins is bad for heart and optimal levels are below 30 mg/dL.
Strategies to lower VLDL are identical to those for LDL and triglycerides. Cholesterol to HDL ratio is important to determine your heart risk. Optimal levels are below 3.5:1.
What is HDL?
HDL or high-density lipoprotein are our friends. These are healthy and good for us. They remove cholesterol from blood and take it to our liver which gets rid of it.
Low levels of HDL increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. Foods containing shortenings and trans-fat such as cakes, cookies, fried foods, and margarine lower HDL and so does smoking tobacco. Regular exercise can increase HDL. Optimal levels are above 40 mg/dL, however too high levels above 100 mg/dL can be harmful.
“At times, prescription medications such as statins, or fibrates may be needed to lower LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL.”
What is LDL?
LDL or low-density lipoproteins are bad for us as high levels lead to heart disease, stroke, and death.
Optimal levels are below 100 mg/dL, however LDL goal is also determined by presence of risk factors including smoking, personal or family history of heart disease, and diabetes.
To lower your LDL, you need to eat a heart healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and fiber; cut down animal fat intake, trans and saturated fats; and increase physical activity, stop smoking and cut back on alcohol intake. Maintaining optimal weight is very helpful.
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