Your total cholesterol level includes different types of cholesterol in your blood. Actually, your cholesterol is not as important as the ratio between the good and bad forms. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are the good guys, and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are the bad guys.
Your HDL level is a key factor in your risk for heart attacks. For example, if your HDL level is low (below 35), you are at risk even if your cholesterol is only 200. But if your HDL level is up (above 80), your risk is lower—even with total cholesterol as high as 240. The higher your HDL level, the better. LDL cholesterol is the bad stuff that clogs your arteries. You want low levels of the low-density lipoproteins. LDLs can be small or large; small LDLs have recently been linked to undesirable low levels of HDL and to high level of triglycerides.
So What Is High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance, and it is a building block of cells, vitamins and hormones in your body. Cholesterol is so essential that your liver manufactures all you need (up to 2000 mg/day). The standard definition of high cholesterol is having an excess of cholesterol in the blood, usually more than 200 mg/dl, although many doctors now use 180 mg/dl as the desirable maximum blood level.
An important note of high cholesterol is that it usually is a symptom free health concern. This means that a lot of individuals may be living with high cholesterol now and not even realize it. The most effective way to keep yourself on track is to have regular, at least one time a year, checkups to determine your cholesterol levels.
Know Your Levels
It is important to not only know if you have high cholesterol, but to know both your LDL and HDL levels and what each level means.
- 160 or above: High
- 130 to 159: Borderline high
- Below 130: Desirable
- Below 100: Desirable for people with heart disease.
- Below 35: Low
- 35 to 39: Borderline low
- 60 or more: Desirable
The people most likely to have, or develop, high cholesterol are:
- Those with a family history of high cholesterol. High cholesterol can be hereditary and knowing you family history is important to knowing your cholesterol outlook.
- Those with poor eating habits. Mainly these are diets that include high saturated fats and processed foods, and also lack a sufficient amount of fruit and vegetable consumption.
- Those who live a sedentary lifestyle. Making sure you get regular exercise is important in keeping your cholesterol in check.
- Those who smoke and drink heavily have an increased risk.
Fortunately, there are several diet tips for you to make sure your cholesterol stays in check. A nondrug, diet approach to maintaining appropriate cholesterol levels in an effective, safe and natural way for an individual to have good cholesterol levels. Below are some diet tips to help reduce and control your high cholesterol.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and a variety of whole grain breads and cereals.
- Choose lean meats, poultry and plenty of fish.
- Use skim or low-fat diary products.
- Foods that have specific ability to dissolve blood fats and can therefore help reduce high cholesterol include: garlic, wheat germ, liquid chlorophyll, alfalfa sprouts, buckwheat, watercress, rice polishing, apples, celery, and cherries.
- Consume foods high in water-soluble fiber: flaxseed, pectin, guar gum, oat bran onions, beans, legumes, soy, and ginger.
- If dining out and you order a meal with heavy sauce, order the sauce on the side.
- Grilled fish is better than red meat.
- If dining out substitute a side of fresh fruit or vegetables for chips or French fries.
- Broth-based soups are better than cream-based soups.
- When cooking, try to use olive oil in place of vegetable- or animal-based fats.
- When cooking, try to substitute applesauce, soft tofu or prune puree for oils in recipes.
- Buy trans-fat free (no hydrogenated oil) margarines.
In addition to a healthy diet there are different supplements an individual can take to help with cholesterol levels. Below are some supplements that can be taken; it is recommended to see a licensed healthcare provider for appropriate dosage levels.
- Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement with 100 percent of the RDA. Extra B6 and folic acid may help if you have elevated homocysteine levels.
- Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol “natural” form is recommended).
- Fish oil supplements may have the potential for lowering the risk for blocked blood vessels and heart attacks, but their current effectiveness and proper doage haven’t been determined.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ-10) has potential as an antioxidant and could protect against heart disease.