Cholesterol is a fat produced in the liver. In the right amounts it can be benificial to your health. In the wrong amounts it can clog your arteries and cause heart disease. Cholesterol can be ingested by eating animal based foods high in saturated fats such as meats, dairy and eggs. Foods from plants do not contain cholesterol, but modern day processing alters vegetable fats included in prepared foods. These transfats (also called hydrogenated vegetable oils, modified vegetable oils etc) along with natural occuring tropical saturated fats (coconut oil, palm oil etc) will up your cholesterol level considerably.|
There are three types of cholesterol. LDL(Low Density Lipoprotein), also known as bad cholesterol, HDL(High Density Lipoprotein), also known as good cholesterol and Lp(a)(Lipoprotein-A, a mainly genetically created cholesterol). The LDL moves your cholesterol from the liver to the blood, the HDL removes the cholesterol from your blood to the liver. Having to much LDL in your blood will lead to blocked arteries.
Blockages in arteries to the heart can cause heart attacks, where as blocked arteries to the brain can cause strokes. Therefore it is important for adults to be checked with a simple blood test regularly, especially if there is a history of heart or arterial disease in the family. A male should definitely be tested by age 40 and a woman should not wait past the age of 50, as the high cholesterol risk increases in older aged persons.
The safe levels of cholesterol vary with gender, age, blood pressure and other factors such as being a smoker or taking other medications etc. The following is a rough guideline to safe levels.
To calculate your Cholesterol Ratio:
Take the total (LDL+HDL) cholesterol ÷ HDL cholesterol = Ratio
For most healthy individuals, the Canadian Cholesterol Guidelines recommend starting lipid lowering therapy at an LDL level of 5.0 mmol/L or higher and a Ratio of 6.0 or higher.
For people with health conditions, such as previous heart attacks or heart surgery, the target level for LDL is less than 2.0 mg/dL and the Ratio target is less than 4.0 mmol/L.
LDL below 2.0 mmol/L
HDL above 1.0 mmol/L
Lp(a) below 14 mg/dL
HDL RATIO below 4.0 mmol/L
You can adjust your cholesterol levels by diet, exercise and medications like Lipitor.Remember not all fats in your diet are bad, some are actually benificial to your body. Below are general lists of foods to eat more of and foods to cut down on or eliminate.
Poultry skin removed
Skim milk or Soya based milk
Low fat cheeses
Fruits and Vegetables
Whole grain baked goods
Beans Lentils Tofu
Red fatty meats
Refined sugars and grains
Use little or no fat in cooking, but if do use vegetable oils such as olive, canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, or peanut oil. Also don't forget you can lower your cholesterol by controlling your weight and being active for 30 minutes or more per day.
This is an overview, please visit our other cholesterol pages for more info. Also visit our diet pages for more info on food choices and values.
UNDERSTANDING CHOLESTEROL LOWERING DRUGS
When change in diet, exercise and weight loss aren't enough to lower your cholesterol, your physician might prescribe medications. Here are a the most common cholesterol lowering drugs with a brief discription of their effectiveness.
Statins, such as Crestor, Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol, and Zocor, are usually the first choice for medicine. They block the effects of an enzyme that helps make cholesterol. They also lower bad cholesterol by a whopping 20-55%. They have a modest effect on triglycerides and give a mild boost to your good cholesterol.
Ezetimibe (Zetia) is a newer cholesterol-reducing medication that decreases how much cholesterol the body absorbs. It can lower bad cholesterol by up to 25%. Ezetimibe may be combined with a statin to boost the cholesterol lowering effects. Vytorin is Zetia combined with the statin Zocor.
Niacin, available as Niacor, Niaspan, and Nicolar (among others), lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raises HDL cholesterol. LDL levels are usually cut by 5-15% and may be reduced up to 25%. Niacin is also very effective in lowering Lp(a).
Bile acid resins like Colestid, Lo-Cholest, Prevalite, Questran, and WelChol. They stick to cholesterol in the intestines and prevent it from being absorbed. They can lower LDL cholesterol by 15-30%.
Fibrates like Atromid, Lopid, and Tricor. They mainly reduce your triglycerides and may also give a mild boost to your HDL. LDL is affected to a much lesser extent.
Many or any medications to lower your cholesterol can have side effects. Talk to your health care provider about the risks.