High Blood Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels put you at significant risk of heart disease and the higher the level of cholesterol, the greater your risk of a heart attack or heart disease. In many countries, heart disease is the number one killer of men and women; this holds true in the United States as well, coming out on top of cancer. Cholesterol is a fat like substance that is finely dispersed in the blood, and if it is present in excess, it is deposited in a film layer on the inner walls of the arteries. If this condition of excess cholesterol is allowed to continue, the layer gets thicker, the arteries get narrowed and the flow of blood to the heart is reduced. When the supply of blood to the heart or any portion of it is completely blocked off it will result in a heart attack. High cholesterol on its own does not cause any symptoms so most people are oblivious to their risks unless they undergo tests for cholesterol levels. It is important to know your cholesterol levels, so that you can control them through your diet, and maintain it at a healthy level. Maintaining a healthy level of cholesterol is necessary for everyone, male or female, young or old, with or without heart problems.
Symptoms of High Blood Cholesterol
Most diseases give us some indication or some kind of warning about their presence. Cholesterol is not a disease however and is simply a type of lipid fat that is naturally present in our bodies. Unfortunately, it becomes threatening when these levels get too high due to the intake of certain foods. There are no specific symptoms that can help you to determine whether you have high cholesterol however. Regular blood checks will keep you informed of any underlying problem though and this can make a huge difference to the outcome.
Cholesterol, though antithetical to good health, is necessary for the proper functioning of the body, but in very small amounts. These miniscule quantities of cholesterol are utilized by the body to produce the many hormones that are vital for the body to digest fat. Excessive cholesterol in the blood or lining the arterial walls will narrow the passageway of the arteries and restrict the normal circulation of blood throughout the body. Individuals with a family history of high blood cholesterol or who are at a higher risk of heart attacks due to various other factors should regularly test themselves to stay on the safe side. Age is a factor that influences cholesterol levels. Before menopause, women have lower cholesterol levels as compared to men, whether they are overweight or not. But once menopause comes on, cholesterol levels rise to overtake men of the same age. Regular testing after forty years of age should be done by both sexes, because this is when cholesterol tends to become a danger mainly because this is when people begin slowing down and lead a less active life, thus burning less calories.
Causes of High Blood Cholesterol
There are various risk factors that could contribute to the problem of high blood cholesterol and most of these conditions can be controlled to a large extent.
- Food Intake: Foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol are the main culprits. These typically include animal products like meats, dairy products, deep fried and oily foods and refined foods like cookies or crackers.
- Obesity: Obesity or simply being overweight can greatly increase the risk of raising cholesterol levels and correspondingly up the risk of heart disease.
- Activity Levels: A sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity can be extremely detrimental to your general health and it also raises your risk of developing serious heart disease, as it results in a reduction of HDL (good) Cholesterol.
- Age: While young adults may be able to eat and drink and maker merry, its not so once you enter your twenties and thirties. Your diet and lifestyle are important during the teenage years as well, but as men enter their twenties cholesterol levels begin to rise naturally and its all the more important for you to be cautious about your diet. Women dont really experience any such rise in cholesterol levels during their twenties or maybe even in their thirties, but the spike in cholesterol levels is brought on with menopause. Cholesterol levels can then climb high enough to be on par with those in men.
- Heredity: Genetics do have a role to play in cholesterol levels and your genes could leave you predisposed to higher levels of cholesterol.
- Smoking: HDL (good) cholesterol levels can be lowered due to smoking.
In addition to the above mentioned risk factors you should also keep in mind that the risk of high cholesterol will also increase if you suffer from certain other health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease and hypothyroidism. Certain medications like beta-blockers, corticosteroids and estrogen may contribute to a rise in triglyceride levels and a drop in HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Remedies for High Blood Cholesterol
Medical care is important if you have a high blood cholesterol problem. This is particularly important for monitoring your condition and evaluating the current line of treatment or the need for treatment. Whether or not you are on medications to treat the problem, natural methods of treatment for high blood cholesterol can help considerably. This does not simply refer to concoctions and potions that you can brew at home though! Natural methods of treatment can include dietary and lifestyle modifications as well. Your diet is in fact the single most important factor to consider when dealing with high blood cholesterol.
The first and most logical step to deal with the threat of high blood cholesterol levels would be to counter the risk factors:
- Follow a balanced and healthy diet, eliminating foods that are excessively fatty. Cut down on the meats (especially red meat), fried and oily foods, whole dairy products and desserts like ice-cream, pastries and so on.
- Make a conscious effort to regulate your body weight and maintain it within the levels considered healthy for someone of your age, gender and body type.
- Make sure you get enough physical activity. If you dont have time to exercise at a gym or find it inconvenient dont use it as an excuse to skip physical activity. Avoid using the car for short trips in your neighborhood and walk or cycle instead. Whether you wish to dance, or run errands or walk a dog, any kind of physical activity will benefit you.
- Smoking isnt just bad for your lungs. It causes damage to every organ in the body over time, the heart and circulatory system included, and if you do wish to address a high blood cholesterol problem you should quit smoking.
In addition to these steps to control and minimize the risks of high blood cholesterol you can also try using some natural remedies:
- According to some studies flaxseed may help in controlling cholesterol levels. A study conducted among hypercholesterolemic men in Japan suggests that the daily administration of flaxseed lignan can be an effective treatment for high blood cholesterol.
- Garlic is one of the most widely used of all herbs and a popular culinary ingredient. Garlic offers a variety of health benefits and most studies suggest that its health benefits also extend to controlling cholesterol levels. Garlic is most effective and healthy when consumed in its raw form chew on a clove along with your meals. If its more than you can chew on you could try and have garlic supplements instead. Make sure you consult with your doctor first however, as garlic can have a blood thinning effect like allicin and may also interfere with the action of certain drugs.
Diet for High Blood Cholesterol
For a diet that is best suited to your needs it would be best to consult with your doctor and a dietician or nutritionist. In the meantime, here are some foods that you should try to include in your diet:
- Plenty of fruits, including canned variety, but without added sugar
- Whole wheat bread
- Plenty of fresh vegetables
- Fat free milk
- Egg whites
- Tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines at regular intervals as they are rich in omega 3
Studies indicate that the moderate intake of alcohol does not pose any risks to alcohol levels and moderate consumption of red wines may in fact offer protection against heart disease. Regular and excessive consumption of any alcohol whether red wine or country liquor is known to increase your risk of not just heart disease, but of various other health disorders as well.
Suggestion for High Blood Cholesterol
Heart disease is called the silent killer with good cause. So dont ignore any advice given to you by your health care providers! Regular checkups are absolutely essential for anyone who has entered into their twenties. As noted, high blood cholesterol does not manifest in any warning symptoms and you need to take steps to lower cholesterol levels yourself. Regular testing can help to avert complications that could arise from high blood cholesterol levels, some of which could be fatal.
- Thomson M, Al-Qattan KK, Bordia T, Ali M. Including garlic in the diet may help lower blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides. J Nutr. 2006 Mar;136(3 Suppl):800S-802S. PubMed PMID: 16484567.
Fukumitsu S, Aida K, Shimizu H, Toyoda K. Flaxseed lignan lowers blood cholesterol and decreases liver disease risk factors in moderately hypercholesterolemic men. Nutr Res. 2010 Jul;30(7):441-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2010.06.004. PubMed PMID: 20797475.
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