There are two types of blood cholesterol: Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is known as the 'bad cholesterol' because it is deposited on the artery walls and therefore restricts blood flow. HDL is known as 'the good cholesterol' as it removes the buildup on the artery walls. Our bodies need both types of cholesterol. However, problems arise when levels are too high for our bodies to handle.
Desirable levels of cholesterol for most people are an LDL level of 130 mg/dL and an HDL level of 35 mg/dL or total cholesterol that is below 200 mg/dL. Many people, however, have high LDL and low HDL, which indicates a problem maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
When it comes to high cholesterol, there are some risk factors that are out of your control.
Your gender is a risk factor that is out of your control. Beginning at puberty, men have lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or "good cholesterol," compared with women. As both sexes age, LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise. Young females will typically have lower LDL cholesterol levels than males. But when women reach the age of 55, they tend to have higher levels than men. Being a woman has advantages and disadvantages when it comes to high cholesterol. The hormone estrogen typically raises HDL cholesterol; so many women can have higher HDL cholesterol levels compared with men. Because estrogen production is high in the childbearing years, women are less likely to develop heart disease and high cholesterol during this time. Also, early menopause (younger than 50) is another high cholesterol risk
Your age is a risk factor that is also out of your control, because we all know that we cannot stop the aging process. Getting older — 45 years or older for men and 55 years or older for women — increases your high cholesterol risk.
Hereditary factors are also out of your control. High cholesterol can strike even the very young for genetic reasons. Inherited disorders such as familial (meaning “runs in families”) hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia can lead to dangerously high blood cholesterol, which can be difficult to control. However, high cholesterol levels can be kept at bay with diet and medication.
Speaking of medication, many people wonder whether or not they will need medication to control or lower their cholesterol and would rather find alternate, more natural solutions to their high cholesterol. Fortunately, for many, there is no need to take cholesterol-lowering medication. If you suffer from high cholesterol or are trying to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, there are a number of natural ways to do so and these ways of maintaining good cholesterol levels are under your control:
Eating a High Fiber, Low Fat Diet. Starting your day with a cup of warm oatmeal or bran cereal goes a long way in reducing your cholesterol levels. Fiber binds to cholesterol and helps drag it out of the body. If you want to step it up and really reduce your cholesterol, try increasing your fiber intake throughout the day.
Regular Cardiovascular Exercise. As with exercising for weight loss, positive outcome will be directly correlated to effort put into working out. Try going for a low impact walk 3 to 5 times a week. However, a daily 40-minute concerted effort on the treadmill will yield even greater results. Start off slow and working your way up to progressive cardiovascular resistance and intensity.
Regular Supplementary Vitamin Intake. Studies are now coming out that seem to point toward the veracity of claims made by vitamin companies. The most well accepted supplement related to cholesterol reduction is the Omega 3 fatty acids. Specifically, pharmaceutical grade fish oil seems to help with this issue. It is also important to take a high quality multi-vitamin on a daily basis.
Are There Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol?
Yes there are, and they are mainly vegetables and fruits. This is due to their high fiber content, which as mentioned before, soaks cholesterol like a sponge and gets it out of the body. It is best if they're eaten raw like salads.
Today, the recommendations we receive are to decrease our intake of high cholesterol foods and fat (animal products) and increase the consumption of foods high in fiber (fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains).
A specific food that lowers cholesterol is Quaker oats. The relationship of this low cholesterol food and the actual lowering of cholesterol is found in the soluble fiber found in oats (or barley), which is thought to help reduce high blood cholesterol levels and balance blood glucose peaks. Think of Quaker oats as rolled oats of tiny sponges that soak up cholesterol and carry it out of the bloodstream.
Avocado is another food that lowers cholesterol by 8 percent. This is due to the high content of monounsaturated fats and beta-sitosterol, which is a plant sterol with chemical structures similar to cholesterol. These are two ingredients that help lower cholesterol effectively.