Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in most cells of the body and serves several useful functions, namely cell construction. It’s carried through the bloodstream attached to proteins. These proteins are called lipoproteins.
Low-density lipoprotein. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can eventually build up within blood vessel walls resulting in constriction and ultimately problems like heart dysfunction, stroke and more. For this reason, LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein. This lipoprotein is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. HDL picks up excess and bad forms of cholesterol in the blood, returning it to the liver, where it’s broken down and later eliminated. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. People who have naturally higher levels of HDL cholesterol are at lower risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Diets and habits known to increase HDL tend to lower the risk of heart attacks. These include impact exercise, avoiding smoking and intoxication, and simpler diets.
HDL levels are typically lower in people who have metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that include obesity, increased blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.
In addition to helping in weight loss, increased physical activity can lower triglycerides while increasing HDL levels. Benefits can be seen with as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week.
In terms of diet, try to avoid trans fats, as they can increase LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels. Foods prepared with shortening, such as cakes and cookies, often contain trans fats, as do most fried foods and some margarine.
Drugs containing testosterone and other anabolic steroids can artificially lower HDL cholesterol levels. Avoiding these drugs may help increase HDL numbers.
In our view, high triglycerides levels are more the issue than high cholesterol.
Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in blood. The body converts any calories it doesn’t immediately need into triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored in fat cells in the blood and other areas too. Between meals, or when physically active, hormones tend to release triglycerides for increased energy. If more calories are consumed than burned, particularly “easy” calories like carbohydrates and fats, high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia) is the result. Overuse of alcohol, sugars, ‘white foods’, bad fats, etc. can cause weight gain, and increase blood pressure and triglyceride levels. This essentially indicates over-eating, more so than consumption of non-beneficial fats.
Triglycerides are associated with heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke, especially in people with low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and those with type 2 diabetes. Very high levels of triglycerides are also associated with liver and pancreas problems, high blood pressure, obesity, high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
Triglycerides and cholesterol are separate types of lipids that circulate in your blood. Triglycerides store unused calories and provide the body with reserve energy, and cholesterol is used to build cells and certain hormones. Because triglycerides and cholesterol can’t dissolve in blood, they circulate throughout the body, with the help of proteins that transport the lipids (lipoproteins).
Make your lifestyle count.
Get more physical activity. Exercise can have a big impact on triglyceride levels. Experts recommend that everybody get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. If you’re out of shape, start slowly. Begin with a quick walk three times a week and then build up from there.
Lose some weight. If heavy, shed a few pounds and try to maintain an ideal body weight. Exercise and diet are equally important. The key is to eat fewer calories — whether they come from fats, carbs, or protein. Focus on a diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Cutting down on sugary foods — like sodas and so-called ‘white foods.’
Choose better fats. Pay more attention to fats. Eat fewer foods with unhealthy fats (found in meat, soy oils, many commercial oils) and trans fats (in processed foods and margarine). Boost intake of healthy fats, found in virgin coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and some fish. Studies have found that the omega-3s in fatty fish — like grouper, snapper, mackerel, and sardines are particularly good at lowering triglyceride levels. Because even healthy fats are high in calories, these foods should also be consumed in moderation.
Cut down on alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol and simple sugars, as they can cause rapid and large spikes in triglyceride levels.