The Pulse

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Understanding Cholesterol

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is fat that circulates in the blood. The body needs cholesterol, since it is a building material for body cells. If you want to have an idea of its form – it is a fatty, soft, waxy substance resembling hardened grease – and it occurs in the bloodstream.

However, high cholesterol levels can slowly clog arteries resulting in heart disease or stroke. This clogging of arteries takes years to become life threatening, but can also be reversed using nutritional supplements, exercise and a low fat diet.

Other "cholesterol terminology" you should know, apart from cholesterol are LDL, HDL.

Good and Bad Cholesterol

(Low Density Lipoprotein) LDL Cholesterol, is called the bad cholesterol, because it causes the build up and plaque inside blood levels. Remember that this is the cholesterol to lower.

HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol, because it actually removes the cholesterol from blood vessels’ walls. This is the one to increase by as much as you can. Where does cholesterol come from? While there are various causes of high cholesterol, cholesterol as such comes from 2 sources:

  • your body
  • the foods you eat
  • In your body, cholesterol is made in the liver. And do you know that your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs!? That’s why you don’t really need the cholesterol coming from the second source – foods that you eat. Whatever food you eat the liver will take from it the necessary ingredients to produce cholesterol.

    As a rule of thumb all animal and dairy products contain high cholesterol. However vegetables contain none of it. As such one way to lower cholesterol is to avoid foods that contain high cholesterol – or at least minimize their consumption, that is animal and dairy products. Why lower cholesterol? The problem with cholesterol is that there are no high cholesterol symptoms and too much of it can collect in your blood vessels, forming a hard, britle substance called plaque. A build up of plaque can cause your blood vessels to narrow and, reducing the amount of blood that can flow to vital organs such as your heart and brain.

    If a vessel is blocked and the blood does not pump through the heart, then you’ll have a heart attack. However, if the blocked vessel, is near to the brain and the blood does not flow to your brain you’ll have a stroke. Lowering cholesterol will slow fatty build up in the walls of the arteries and reduce your risk of a heart attack and stroke.

    In fact studies have shown that by lowering cholesterol by 1 percent, there’s a 2 percent reduction in the number of heart attacks. In other words, if you reduce cholesterol level by 20 percent, your risk of heart disease could drop by 40 percent. How to lower cholesterol? There are various ways to lower cholesterol. Some require some form of self-discipline, some do not.

    First, watch your diet. Limit the intake of animal and dairy products. Various studies have shown that dietary modifications can reduce cholesterol by 15 to 30 percent.

    Second, stop (or at least limit as much as you can) smoking or drinking alcohol. Stop anything else that is harmful to your body.

    Third, begin an aerobic exercise program. It does not have to be heavy. Something like a brisk walking or jogging.

    Fourth, use nutritional supplements. There are various supplements that help reduce cholesterol. For example you can use a soluble fiber supplement such as green barley, or garlic, calcium, lecithin, vitamin B and C.

    Nutritional Supplements that May Lower Cholesterol

    • Niacin is a B vitamin and when taken in large doses, it will help to lower your cholesterol. Taking large amounts of niacin will cause a niacin flush, which is a very uncomfortable burning feeling in your face and joints. It is accompanied by redness as well. The flush isn't dangerous, but to avoid it, try inositol hexaniacinate. This form of niacin doesn't cause a flush. Niacin will lower the LDL, or bad cholesterol, and raise the HDL, or good cholesterol.
    • Octacosanol from wheat germ oil will also lower overall cholesterol.
    • Chromium-GTF will lower cholesterol and is often part of formulas made for aiding sugar metabolism.
    • Guggul is an herbal medicine that will lower cholesterol and your bad cholesterol.
    • Omega 3 Oil from fish oil or flax oil will reduce cholesterol and as importantly, omega 3 oil will reduce inflammation. Inflammation is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
    • Garlic not only keeps vampires at bay, but it also reduces cholesterol. Most forms of supplemental garlic have a very strong garlicky taste and odor.

    Below is a list partial list of supplements clinically proven to significantly lower cholesterol without side effects:

    • Policosanol (from sugar cane) 25mgs
    • Policosanol (from rice bran) 25mgs
    • Phytosterols (Beta Sitosterol) 330mgs
    • Guggulipid Extract 150mgs
    • Theaflavin Extract (from green tea) 200mgs
    • Rice Bran Oil
    • Pumpkin Seed Oil
    • Vitamin E Oil
    • Lecithin Oil

    SEPTEMBER  2005

    Cholesterol Awareness Month

    How is High Blood Cholesterol Diagnosed?

    What the numbers mean

    High blood cholesterol is diagnosed by checking levels of cholesterol in your blood. It is best to have a blood test called a lipoprotein profile to measure your cholesterol levels. Most people will need to "fast" (not eat or drink anything) for 9 to 12 hours before taking the test.

    The lipoprotein profile will give information about your:

    Total cholesterol

    LDL (bad) cholesterol: the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries

    HDL (good) cholesterol: the good cholesterol that helps keep cholesterol from building up in arteries

    Triglycerides: another form of fat in your blood.

    If it is not possible to get a lipoprotein profile done, knowing your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol can give you a general idea about your cholesterol levels. Testing for total and HDL cholesterol does not require fasting.

    If your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or more, or if your HDL is less than 40 mg/dL, you will need to have a lipoprotein profile done.

    Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. See how your cholesterol numbers compare to the tables below.

    Desirable Numbers

       Total Cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dL

       LDL  Cholesterol Less than  100 mg/dL

       HDL Cholesterol greater than 60 mg/dL

       Triglicerydes Less than 120 mg/dL

     

    Dangerous Numbers

       Total Cholesterol above 240 mg/dL

       LDL  Cholesterol above 160 mg/dL

       HDL Cholesterol below 40 mg/dL

       Triglicerydes above  200 mg/dL

    Sources and Links

    Gold Bamboo Resources