Should You Panic If Your Cholesterol is Very High? Look Beyond to Get the Whole Picture
High blood cholesterol is considered to be a major risk factor of heart disease. Cholesterol is a type of fat produced by the liver and is necessary for the normal function of the body but we often get more than what is needed since cholesterol is present in some foods too. Too much cholesterol in the body causes accumulation in the blood, leading to high cholesterol levels which in turn can cause heart disease, stroke, or heart attack.
Defining High Blood Cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is defined as having total blood cholesterol of 240 mg/dL and above. Total cholesterol in the blood within the cholesterol range of 200-239 mg/dL is already considered as borderline high, and is in fact the average cholesterol level of adults in the U.S. Individuals with high cholesterol levels have double the risk of getting coronary heart disease compared to those who have cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dL.
Getting the Total Cholesterol
Having high cholesterol levels may be a cause for alarm but before you start panicking, it helps to know that there are several factors affecting the result of blood cholesterol. Total cholesterol levels are actually obtained by considering triglycerides, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
Triglycerides are fats found in the fatty tissues and bloodstream. High triglyceride levels promote atherosclerosis, a condition that results in the narrowing and hardening of the arteries due to buildup of fat deposits in the artery walls.
HDL cholesterol is better known as the good cholesterol. High HDL cholesterol levels increases an individual’s protection against heart disease. HDL cholesterol should be at least 60 mg/dL to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Several factors such as sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and being overweight can lower HDL cholesterol levels in the body.
LDL cholesterol is better known as the bad cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol in the blood increases an individual’s risk of getting stroke and heart attack. The ideal LDL cholesterol level varies per person and depends on the presence of risk factors for heart disease.
Significance of Homocyteine Levels
Studies also show that homocysteine, an amino acid present in the blood, plays a role in the development of heart disease. The higher the level of homocysteine in the body is, the more likely the individual will develop a cardiovascular disease. According to research, homocysteine may promote deposition of fats in the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis damages the walls of the arteries and promotes blood clot formation.
Reduce Cholesterol with Proper Management
If you want to lower cholesterol in the blood, it would be best to focus on the different factors that affect cholesterol levels. Triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and homocysteine all affect the total cholesterol levels in the body.
Reducing triglycerides in the body involves making changes in one’s lifestyle. Regular exercise, balanced diet, and weight control are important in keeping triglyceride levels within normal range. Smoking should also be avoided and drinking alcohol should be limited to one to two drinks per day. Foods and drinks with added sugars should also be avoided as much as possible.
The main objective when it comes to HDL cholesterol is to increase it. HDL cholesterol levels are best increased through exercise. Getting physically active for 30 to 60 minutes per day, maintaining a normal weight, and avoiding smoking are all effective ways to boost HDL cholesterol in the body.
LDL cholesterol can be reduced through proper diet. Eat less of meat, increase consumption of fiber and whole grains, and eat seafood at least twice a week. Use liquid vegetable oils for cooking instead of solid fats and reduce sodium in the food you eat. Making healthier food choices can make a lot of difference when trying to lower cholesterol.
High homocysteine levels can be managed by increasing intake of B-complex vitamins, specifically B6, B12, and folic acid. Fruits, green leafy vegetables, and fortified grain products are good sources of folic acid. B6 can be obtained from chicken, bananas, and potatoes while dairy products, beef, and organ meats like liver are good source of vitamin B12. Taking a multivitamin supplement that contains B-complex vitamins can also reduce homocysteine.
Managing total cholesterol levels involves looking at the different factors affecting it. By lowering triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and homocysteine while increasing HDL cholesterol, you can prevent the risk of developing heart disease and promote a healthier body at the same time.
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