Cholesterol Made Easy

Published: 31st May 2005
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Everyone has heard of cholesterol!

It's a kind of bogeyman for adults, especially for those of us who enjoy cheese, deep fried foods, and everything smothered in butter or mayo!

We all know it as the symptom that sets off alarm bells.... the indicator that points directly to cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke! If you're over 40 your doctor has probably told you to have your cholesterol levels checked every year and to keep track of your LDL and HDL cholesterol!

But what is it exactly?

Simply put, Cholesterol is one of the fats carried in the bloodstream. The term "cholesterol" usually alludes to "total cholesterol" (VLDL + LDL + HDL). "LDL" stands for Low Density Lipoprotein- cholesterol and "HDL" means High Density Lipoprotein- cholesterol. VLDL is "VERY-LDL", and Chylomicrons are lipoproteins that are present shortly after a meal but normally disappear in about 2 hours.

HDL is known as "good" cholesterol since high levels of HDL reduce risk of coronary heart disease. How, it does so still remains a bit of a mystery. But research suggests that HDL takes excess cholesterol to the liver for excretion in the bile.

LDL or Low Density Lipoprotein is the health-damaging, "bad" cholesterol. When LDL oxidizes and burrows into the walls of already damaged arteries, it clogs those arteries even more.

"Triglycerides" is another type of fat carried by the blood stream. These are compounds used by the body to move fatty acids (formed when fats or oils are consumed) through the blood. Fatty acids may be used by the body for energy or stored (as fat) for later use. Triglycerides are known to be bad for damaged arteries as well, and is another component measured in a cholesterol or lipid test.

A soft, waxy substance, Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver and is needed for normal body functions. It is the substance around which our steroid hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, are formed. And, it is essential for normal functioning of bile acids and vitamin D, which helps the body absorb bone-building calcium. Cholesterol is also required for cell-building and is present in all parts of the body including the nervous system, skin, muscle, liver, intestines, and heart.

So we do need it!

But excessive quantities are dangerous, so it's important to CONTROL it. How can we do that?

If we know the extent of our vulnerability, we know how best to protect ourselves! An annual Cholesterol test is recommended for EVERY person (but especially so for the over 40's), in order to evaluate the risk of heart disease. Remember, that heart disease is the #1 killer! And that it has been found in twenty year-olds, as well as in athletes in peak condition.

What cholesterol scores should you have?

Ideally, total cholesterol should be 200 or less. But this does not give one the full picture. You want to know how much of that is HDL, and how much LDL. The American Diabetes Association's new guidelines call for LDL of 100 or less. You should try to keep your HDL minimum in the 40 to 50 range.

The MOST important point to remember: High HDL means good news for your cardiovascular system. High LDL means you're at increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

Okay, so you know your Cholesterol levels! And, suppose that they are much higher than they should be.....now what?

There are no short-cuts. You have to make certain life-style changes. Would you be willing to do so in order to gain the following benefits?

reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis


cut your chances of developing heart disease and stroke


reduce your risk of health complications from long-term hypertension or blood vessel damage


enhance your blood circulation


achieve healthy sexual functioning
But let's get one thing clear. This is not a short-term project! Managing cholesterol is a lifelong endeavour, and you must prepare yourself mentally to make permanent adjustments in life style. Medication may be required so you need to discuss this with your doctor.

And a regulated-fat, high-fiber diet, stress-reduction, enough sleep and exercise are always necessary, regardless of what medication you take.

I have outlined the various 'management' steps below:

Step 1: Cut out fried foods, red meat, dairy products, and saturated fats from your diet. Treat foods containing hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated, oils as the enemy. These include margarine, pastries, packaged cookies, crackers, potato chips. Take the trouble to read the labels of packaged foods; they reveal a lot!

Step 2: Once you've reduced the bad fats in your foods, increase the good foods that can help with cholesterol management. Eating 20 to 35 grams of fiber every day can actually help lower cholesterol.

More good foods with a cholesterol-lowering effect?
Eat:

fruits
vegetables
lentils and dried beans
fish with Omega-3 oils such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel
flaxseed oil
oatmeal
olive oil
soy foods
garlic
Terminalia arjuna tree bark has a long history as a cardiac tonic and for hypercholesterolemia.
Step 3: Practice relaxation and stress-reduction techniques. Fatigue, anger, and distress can raise your body's adrenaline levels, causing cholesterol to rise.

Step 4: Ensure adequate sleep: everyone needs at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night. Fatigue can increase the adrenalin levels in your body, which causes cholesterol levels to rise. If you're not getting enough restful sleep, you may be increasing your cholesterol level.

Step 5: Exercise regularly to clean cholesterol out of the arteries. Lack of physical activity can greatly affect your cholesterol levels. With exercise, you raise your metabolism and burn calories, so you lose fat. Another bonus, exercise, while lowering total cholesterol, increases the good HDL cholesterol (which helps prevent plaque from forming on the walls of the arteries).

Step 6: Discuss possible mainstream medications with your doctor (statins have proved effective in many cases). We also believe that garlic helps clear out plaque. Terminalia Arjuna is another cholesterol reducing herb from India, that has really proved itself.

Take these steps and you will control the bogey-man! It's quite simple really! Cholesterol management is about living healthy.

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