Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Truth about Cholesterol

For years people have been getting their cholesterol checked at their doctor to find out how their numbers have changed. Did their "bad" LDL cholesterol numbers go down and how much "good" HDL cholesterol do I have?
What do these numbers mean and what is the role of LDL and HDL? LDL and HDL are carrier proteins that carry cholesterol and fats to and from cells so that they can be used appropriately to form cell membranes and the hormones that direct the function of every body system. LDL carries 70% of cholesterol and when too much LDL proteins exist in the blood they can clump together and produce plaque in your arteries. The plaque in your arteries can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

HDL cholesterol actually reverses the negative effects of LDL and helps to reduce the arterial plaquing that puts  us at high risk! HDL's role is to carry cholesterol out of arteries or away from LDL to the liver so it can be eliminated from the body. High levels of HDL are protective of the heart and have been associated with lower risks of heart disease and stroke.

According to new research published in the Journal of Gerontology, LDL cholesterol isn't as "bad" as we previously thought. In their study they found that during high intensity resistance exercise of a group of men and women aged 60-69, those with the higher serum LDL actually gained the most muscle mass over a period of 12 weeks. This study exemplifies the delicate balance in our bodies and shows that LDL and HDL cholesterol are both needed for proper body function.

If we were to completely get rid of the LDL cholesterol in our bodies we would in fact die. LDL is needed for building muscle specifically when resistance training. Although high levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with higher incidence of arterial plaquing, we need to get rid of the outdated notion that LDL cholesterol is ALL bad and look more towards balancing our cholesterol ratios.

Are you on cholesterol medication right now? Did you know that your cholesterol medication can't effect the ratio between LDL and HDL cholesterol? Drugs are never the answer to increasing your HDL numbers and only make your cholesterol numbers look better on paper.They do nothing to restore healthy cholesterol ratios and actually leave you open to heart attack and stroke.

So what can you do to effect a healthy cholesterol ratio?
1. Eat a healthy diet. Make sure to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats with only a small portion of dairy. Foods that lower LDL include avocado, almonds, olive oil, shiitake mushrooms, chili peppers, oat bran, beans, onions, fatty fish, and flax seed. Food that encourage healthy cholesterol ratios include broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
2. Spice your food. Cinnamon, garlic, and cayenne pepper have also been shown to help balance your cholesterol ratios.
3. Supplement your diet. Fish oil supplements or omega 3s have been shown to decrease cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol, and thin the blood to help prevent stroke and heart attack. Other supplements like Chol-X are designed with healthy cholesterol levels in mind and have been formulated with chinese herbs, niacin, and B vitamins that help to lower LDL and raise HDL with no harmful side effects if managed by a qualified doctor.
4. Get some exercise. The study I mentioned earlier found that resistance exercise can help to gain muscle which can help your body get rid of toxins and excess cholesterol easier and more efficiently.
5. Reduce your stress. Work on reducing stress in your life with writing in a journal, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and/or explore a new hobby or craft.

If you'd like to talk further about some natural ways to restore your cholesterol balance and lower your risk for stroke or heart attack, give me a call in the office! (309) 689-6200.