To the layman, cholesterol is something that needs to be controlled. Doctors warn people if their cholesterol levels are high. Statins and other lifestyle changes are recommended to help lower one’s cholesterol levels.
Amidst all the acronyms such as HDL and LDL and 250mg/Dl, it’s understandable if most people are confused. This article will shed light on some of the most commonly used terms for describing cholesterol. More importantly, we’ll look at whether heart disease is really linked to your cholesterol level or is it a tenuous link at best.
Before proceeding, it’s important to note that most cholesterol in your body is produced in the liver. Yes, you read that right. Dietary cholesterol makes up only about 20 percent of the cholesterol in your body. The rest is produced in your body.
Your body also needs cholesterol to function optimally. It uses cholesterol to make bile, which is then used to aid in digestion. Your body also needs it to build tissues, and your sex hormones are produced with the aid of cholesterol. So, it is a valuable component of cell membranes.
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It is the good cholesterol in your body and you’re supposed to have a high amount of it in your body. The idea is that HDL will help to lower the bad cholesterol in your body.
Studies have shown that genetics plays a huge part in determining if your good cholesterol levels are high. While your diet and other factors may play a part, your genes usually dictate how much good cholesterol your body has.
There are different types of HDL such as HDL-2 which are larger and protect your body. It prevents inflammation and reduces plaque which clog arteries. There is also HDL-3 which helps your body too.
You’ve probably already guessed that LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein and you’re right. This is the bad cholesterol that everyone fears. Doctors often recommend that you have less than 100mg/dL to reduce your risk of heart disease.
The theory is that when the LDL is damaged due to oxidation, it causes plaque to form in the arteries. When your arteries get clogged, blood flow is impeded, and heart attacks may occur.
Does Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease?
While most doctors will tell you that cholesterol leads to heart disease, there are many doctors who are less convinced. In fact, they’ve linked heart disease to sugar, and inflammation.
When your diet is high in sugar, your body will get inflamed. Millions of adults all over the world suffer from inflammation due to a poor diet that’s high in processed foods. Sugar creeps into most processed foods, and that probably explains the large numbers of people suffering from inflammation.
Inflammation opens the door to many other serious health problems. The first goal to recovering and being healthy is to reduce your inflammation, and the best way to do that will be to avoid sugar and unhealthy processed foods.
By targeting the sugar and processed foods, you’ll find that your cholesterol levels decrease too. More importantly, you’ll be lowering your risk of heart disease.
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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