In a world where almost, every topic has two groups of people arguing about the pros and cons of it, we could consider cholesterol the trendsetter. That’s because over the years cholesterol has gone from America’s most widely recognized nutrition villain to being considered a healthy feature of popular diets, namely keto and paleo.
It’s all in the numbers
Most adults become familiar with cholesterol when asked about their cholesterol numbers. Unfortunately, it takes getting some bad numbers from your doctor before getting the motivation to learn about what these numbers mean and what you can do to make them better.
In this article, you’ll learn about the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol values. We’ll go over how to optimize these numbers naturally, through nutrition, exercise, and supplementation to reduce your risk of heart disease and maximize your lifespan.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is essential to many functions in the body. In fact, you can’t live without it since every cell in your body contains it. Your body makes cholesterol (in your liver) which is also found in certain foods–primarily those from animals, like meat, dairy products, and eggs. While your body needs some cholesterol to work optimally, as you’ll soon learn, if you have too much of the wrong type of cholesterol in your blood you have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, which is a leading cause of death in the US.
Understanding good and bad cholesterol
The ongoing debate about the health risks of cholesterol, is based on two things. Cholesterol can be good, and cholesterol can be bad.
What is “Good Cholesterol”?
As noted above, cholesterol is good because you can’t live without it. It keeps our cell membranes stable and helps our body make hormones and vitamin D. The “good cholesterol” also known as HDL or high-density lipoprotein takes cholesterol away from the blood and returns it to the liver.
What is “Bad” cholesterol?
Cholesterol can be bad because it can form plaque that clings to the walls of our arteries, which can block blood flow. This can lead to a condition known as, coronary artery disease (CAD), which is the condition where plaque narrows the space inside the artery. A specific type of cholesterol called LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, also known as the “bad cholesterol” is the form of cholesterol that leads to this deadly disease. Here’s why.
Plaques in our arteries can rupture, which causes inflammation to help heal the damaged tissue
This causes a partial blockage that can limit the flow of oxygen or become blocked
If the coronary arteries that feed the heart are blocked, this could lead to a heart attack
If the blood vessels of the brain or the carotid arteries of the neck are blocked, this could lead to a stroke.
If the arteries of the leg are blocked, this could lead to peripheral artery disease. This causes painful leg cramps when walking, numbness and weakness, or foot sores that do not heal.
Getting your cholesterol numbers
There are usually no signs of having too much bad cholesterol. That makes getting your cholesterol checked something that needs to be done regularly. This is easy to do with a simple blood test called a “lipid profile”. Your doctor commonly requests this test so they can evaluate your cholesterol levels. This test will get your numbers for each piece of the cholesterol puzzle, which are.
Total cholesterol, is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood based on your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides numbers.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. Having high levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease or stroke.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because high levels can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood that your body uses for energy. The combination of high levels of triglycerides with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol levels can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
When checked, you want your LDL to be low. Remember, L for low. You also want your HDL to be high. That’s H for High.
Ways to decrease your LDL (bad) and increase your HDL (good) cholesterol include:
Eating fats that are heart-healthy–the primary fats we can eat in our diet are saturated, unsaturated, cholesterol, and trans fats. Saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol in foods can raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels
Get regular exercise and become more physically active–regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol–shoot for 150 minutes per week includes brisk walking, running, and resistance training
Maintaining a healthy weight–if you’re overweight, consider dropping 10 pounds and you’ll cut your LDL by up to 8%
Modernize your nutrition with proven supplements
Just as our modern world has brought us packaged and processed foods that can wreak havoc on our cholesterol numbers, health researchers have given us a new class of natural dietary supplements that have been shown to bring cholesterol numbers into the normal range which as we’ve learned can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Having a high “good” cholesterol level (HDL) and a low “bad” cholesterol level (LDL) reduces the risk of heart disease and enhances overall health. Targeting your blood lipids, arteries, and cholesterol levels with natural supplements can help you achieve balanced cholesterol levels that support heart health.
Getting Cholesterol in Balance
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About the Author
Zach Zovath graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Exceptional Education from the University of Central Florida. He continued on to receive his Master’s degree from the College of Education and Human Performance at the University of Central Florida. He is a master-level personal trainer, coach, and health consultant. In addition, his specializations include corrective exercise, performance enhancement, prenatal/postpartum core stability, and exercise therapy. As a result of his education and experience in the health and fitness industry, he has developed fast and effective exercise programs for health care facilities.