Cholesterol Problems? Here is What you Need to Know

Mar 03, 2016 04:09 AM EST | By Mark Jason Alcala

Cholesterol is a dreaded word these days. Yet most people only have a vague idea of what cholesterol actually is. Probably, a number out there are still unaware that there are two sides to cholesterol: the bad (LDL) and the good (HDL).

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance present in every cell of the body. It is important to note that as a natural substance present in the body, cholesterol is vital to a lot of the body's processes such as the production of certain hormones, vitamin D and enzymes that aid in the digestion of food. In fact, the body produces enough cholesterol to meet this requirement according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

There are basically two types of cholesterols: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

Bad Cholesterol (LDL)

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are also known as 'bad' cholesterol. This is because LDL can cause the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries also known as plaque. Left untreated, this plaque-formation would result in the narrowing of blood vessels making it harder for the heart to circulate the blood and results to both an overworked heart as well as a higher blood pressure, which is a problem in itself.

Good Cholesterol (HDL)

On the other hand, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are also known as 'good' cholesterol. It somehow undoes the negative effects of bad cholesterol by carrying LDL back to the liver. The liver then removes the removes the cholesterol from the body.

High Blood Cholesterol, Coronary Heart Disease and Plaque

The main cause of concern stems from an unusually high concentration of cholesterol in the blood. As a result, plaque buildup could occur which could lead to Coronary Heart Disease that could lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.

 However, it is important to note that when a doctor wants you to lower your cholesterol level, he meant for you to lower your LDL or bad cholesterol level and not HDL or good cholesterol. The NHLBI is quite specific in this area:

1.       The higher the LDL or bad cholesterol levels in your blood, the greater your chance of getting heart disease.

2.       Conversely, the higher the HDL or good cholesterol levels in your blood, the lower you chance of getting heart disease.

This leaves no room for misinterpretation. To be healthy, you need to increase you HDL or good cholesterol while decreasing your LDL or bad cholesterol. But how do you exactly do that?

Increasing Good Cholesterol

There are five ways to boost your good cholesterol count, according to WebMD.

1.       Exercise - Physical activity is known to raise HDL levels. For most days of the week, a 30-minute exercise routine is recommended.

2.       Trim down - Losing extra weight, especially for the overweight, can significantly boost your good cholesterol levels.

3.       Opt for Healthy Fats - Unlike the medical viewpoint of the past where all fats are seen as bad, modern view asserts that not all fats are created equal. It is now considered healthy to eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In other words, plants, nuts, fish and fish like salmon or tuna should be the top priority.

4.       Drink moderately - Yes this is a warning found in most alcohol commercial but it also rings true for boosting good cholesterol levels. But moderation is the word that needs to be stressed here.

5.       Quit Smoking - Another reason for you to stop this destructive habit.

Lowering Bad Cholesterol

Fortunately, when the steps for increasing good cholesterol are followed, they automatically lower bad cholesterol levels as well. In addition, these steps are offered to help in bad cholesterol reduction efforts according to WebMD:

1.       Spice up your food - This one should be easy and delicious as well. Using spices more will help in lowering bad cholesterol. Spices like garlic, curcumin, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and black pepper can reduce bad cholesterol levels by nine percent.

2.       Avoid Trans Fats - This is a bit difficult because most modern convenience food items contain trans fat. They can be found in fried foods, pastries, margarines and most processed food. It might be hard but the American Heart Association (AHA)is pretty adamant on this one. AHA recommends reading nutritional contents on all processed foods and even warns that some food items might contain 0 trans fat but have partially hydrogenated oils. Don't be fooled; they're basically the same.

3.       Eat fiber-rich food - It has been shown that people eating a daily diet that contains 5 to 10 soluble fiber have significantly lowered their bad cholesterol levels.

4.       Manage Stress - This is likewise important as you may be sabotaging your efforts if you are continually stressed out. Stress hormone cortisol is known to increase bad cholesterol levels fast.

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