Though your genes may determine your cholesterol level, your diet can help keep it under control
What is high cholesterol?
High cholesterol is a well-known risk factor for heart disease. Cholesterol itself is a waxy, fat-like substance that is primarily made by the liver, although some comes from the diet. It is an essential component of cell membranes and is used by the body to produce hormones and vitamin D.
What are the causes of high cholesterol?
The tendency toward high cholesterol appears to be genetic, although diet also influences cholesterol levels. Other factors include being overweight and physically inactive. The older you get, the more likely your cholesterol levels are to rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower cholesterol levels than men of the same age, but after menopause, women’s LDL (bad cholesterol) levels often increase.
There is considerable controversy over whether high cholesterol is in itself a cause of heart disease (the lipid hypothesis), or a symptom of an inflammatory condition that is the true cause of heart disease (the inflammation hypothesis). According to the latter theory, chronically high levels of inflammation creates small lesions on arterial walls; the body sends LDL to heal those lesions, but it ultimately accumulates and oxidizes, causing blockages. From this perspective, the best lifestyle approach to lower cardiovascular disease risk is to lower inflammation in the body rather than LDL levels.
Ways to control cholesterol naturally:
- Eat some nuts every day. Choose almonds, walnuts and cashews, all of which contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
- Substitute animal protein with whole soy protein. Soy protein such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, whole soy beans and roasted soy nuts has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Choose organic products where possible.
- Use fresh garlic regularly. Garlic has been shown to lower both cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Use one or two raw or lightly cooked cloves a day.
- Drink green tea daily. The antioxidants it contains help lower cholesterol and prevent the cholesterol in your blood from oxidizing.
- Go crazy with colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have scads of ingredients that lower cholesterol—including fiber, cholesterol-blocking molecules called sterols and stanols, and eye-appealing pigments. The heart-healthy list spans the color spectrum—leafy greens, yellow squashes, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, plums, blueberries. As a rule, the richer the hue, the better the food is for you.
- Limit refined carbohydrates. These include cookies, cakes, crackers, fluffy breads, chips and sodas, all of which can worsen cholesterol levels by lowering HDL (good cholesterol) and also increase triglyceride levels.
- Exercise! If your cholesterol is creeping upward, your doctor has probably told you that diet and exercise—the traditional cornerstones of heart health, could help to bring it down. Take a brisk walk for 15 minutes, followed by a 30-minute swim in the pool 5 times a week.
- Take fish oil. Fish oil contains an abundance of essential omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s) that have been shown to lower triglyceride (blood fat) levels, minimize inflammation and clotting, and increase good cholesterol (HDL). Research indicates that omega-3s may help reduce the risk and symptoms of a variety of disorders influenced by inflammation, including heart attack and stroke. You can add omega-3s to your diet by eating more cold water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and black cod. If that’s not possible, supplement it with two grams daily of a fish oil supplement that contains both essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). When choosing a supplement, look for one derived from molecularly distilled fish oils – these are naturally high in both EPA and DHA and low in contaminants. Also choose a supplement brand that has been independently tested and guaranteed to be free of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and other environmental toxins including polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs.
First published by Shireen Yong in www.healthfreakmommy.com