Cholesterol naturally occurs in the body. Good health is linked to having the right amounts of cholesterol in the blood. But people worry about high levels of blood cholesterol, because it plays a major role in heart disease, stroke and clogged arteries. People with inherited family traits for high cholesterol levels worry that the body will naturally make too much of it. To avoid the cost and side effects of drugs, many people want to keep levels low through natural means.
Controlling levels of cholesterol is challenging because of the body’s ability to make its own. Natural methods for reducing high cholesterol are an important part of staying well, where drug therapies alone may not give you the healthy outcome you want most.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft fatty substance in the bloodstream. The liver produces cholesterol and the body absorbs it from foods coming from animal sources. Meat, fish, cheese, milk products, and eggs all contain cholesterol. Foods from plants do not contain cholesterol.
Every cell in our body contains cholesterol (in cell membranes), and it’s a necessary part of maintaining health. But because it travels in the blood stream, too much cholesterol can cause problems for blood circulation and heart health. It travels in particles called lipoproteins. The “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol measured with blood tests refers to the two types of lipoproteins in the cells. The truth is, a healthy body needs the right amount of both lipoproteins in the blood.
The two types of cholesterol proteins in the blood are: low density lipoprotein, and high density lipoprotein.
Low Density Lipoprotein, or LDL, is commonly known as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up on the lining of blood vessels. LDL forms deposits with other particles on the lining of arteries, a coating known as plaque.
Plaque buildup over time can cause a number of serious health conditions and risks. These include hardened arteries, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Lowering high levels of LDL can reduce plaque buildup, or even stop it. At the Optimal Wellness Center of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, Dr. Betty Keller orders blood tests and helps patients learn and understand their cholesterol levels. According to The National Institute of Health, the recommended optimal level of LDL is below 100mg/dL.
High Density Lipoprotein, or HDL, is commonly called the “good” cholesterol. This protein carries cholesterol from other parties of your body back to the liver. The liver then removes the cholesterol from the body with bile. The higher your HDL, the lower your risk of heart disease. According to The National Institute of Health, people with cholesterol >60 mg/dL have a lower risk of heart disease. Those with HDL<40 mg/dL have a higher risk.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Control Cholesterol Levels
High LDL levels can occur because of your own body chemistry. But even so, you can prevent high levels of bad cholesterol by choosing physical activities and foods carefully. A healthy diet and regular exercise can significantly decrease your cholesterol levels, and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Still, in some cases, your body may need some drug therapy, in addition to lifestyle changes, to lower your cholesterol to healthy levels.
Which Lifestyle Choices Lower “Bad” and raise “Good” Cholesterol?
1) Weight Loss: If your body is somewhat overweight, losing extra weight is one of the best things you can do to improve your cholesterol levels.
Even small amounts of weight loss can help meaningfully: taking off only 5 to 10 pounds can lower blood cholesterol.
2) Enjoy heart-healthy physical activity: As little as 30 minutes a day of appropriate exercise not only lowers bad cholesterol, it can raise good cholesterol. It improves balance, strength, and can make the difference between dependence and independence in later years.
If you’re just starting out, your doctor can help you choose the right types of activities at the right intensity to begin. Appropriate exercises can be rhythmic, repetitive activities that get your circulation going at a healthy intensity for you. Walking, aerobic dancing, cycling with family or friends can all become part of a healthy lifestyle. One that’s naturally low in cholesterol.
Dr. Betty Keller works with patients from New York City, Northern NJ and Bergen County NJ to lower cholesterol and promote health, at the Optimal Wellness Center. Her therapeutic approach combines traditional medicine, dietary changes, nutritional supplements, and acupuncture. Patients receive effective, personalized treatment plans to prevent chronic disease. For an in-person consultation in her Franklin Lakes, NJ office, contact 201-485-7930.