For a long time, health professionals claimed that people with high total cholesterol levels had a higher risk of heart disease. Your arteries can become clogged with cholesterol, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
The CDC estimates that approximately 94 million adults in the United States have total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL, and nearly 7% of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 have high total cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol numbers can be confusing. But not all cholesterol is bad for you, especially HDL or “good” cholesterol. However, the same is not true for low-density lipoproteins (LDL), known as “bad” cholesterol. Therefore, it is necessary to know what cholesterol and what level can increase your risk or reduce your risk of heart disease.
This process of blockage of the arteries is called atherosclerosis. It narrows the arteries of the heart and increases the risk of other health problems. To research shows that it can make you more likely to have peripheral arterial disease, stroke or heart attack.
age and sex
age and sex
The older you get, the more regularly you need to check your cholesterol levels. As women age, their cholesterol levels rise. For example, after menopause, women’s LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels tend to rise.
Your genetic makeup influences the amount of cholesterol. Hypercholesterolemia can be hereditary. There is a high risk if a member of your biological family, such as your parents and grandparents, has high cholesterol or a history of heart attack or stroke.
Manage cholesterol levels
There are mainly two ways to lower your total cholesterol levels: heart-healthy lifestyle changes and drug therapy.
For most people, adopting a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference. However, doctors may prescribe drugs to lower cholesterol levels if lifestyle changes are insufficient.
Heart healthy food
The saturated fats and cholesterol in your food raise your blood cholesterol levels. While eating a heart-healthy diet, limiting these foods will help regulate and lower blood cholesterol. According to researchthe DASH diet may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Being overweight is linked to heart disease. Losing even 5-10 pounds can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
It also increases your HDL (good) cholesterol levels and improves all health factors, including heart disease management. Find out what your ideal weight is by talking to your doctor.
You can also use the HealthifyMe app to monitor your blood sugar levels in real time, which can help you change your eating habits, consume fewer calories, and possibly lose weight.
If you don’t exercise, you could develop heart disease. According to researchexercise increases the size of LDL particles, thereby reducing the amount of plaque in the arteries.
Regular exercise increases HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). It also helps people lose weight. Taking around 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week can show significant changes.
If you’re new to intense exercise, start with 5-10 minutes of light exercise per day and gradually increase it.
Quit smoking and tobacco use
Tobacco use and smoking can damage the walls of blood vessels, which makes it easier for plaque to build up. Quitting smoking also has the added benefit of preventing and managing hypertension.
Limit your alcohol intake
Excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood triglyceride levels, leading to hypertension (high blood pressure) and atrial fibrillation. Therefore, drink alcohol in moderation to lower cholesterol levels. Men should have no more than two drinks per day on average, and women should have no more than one.
To manage stress
Chronic stress can sometimes raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. You can control your mental stress by exercising, doing yoga, getting enough sleep, or doing anything else that helps you relax.
Monitor your cholesterol level
A cholesterol test can measure cholesterol and fat levels in your blood to assess your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The CDC recommends that most healthy adults have their cholesterol levels tested every 4-6 years. People with a family history or at high risk of high cholesterol should get tested regularly.
Note from The Fitness Freak
Since cholesterol builds up over time, it’s usually beneficial to start making lifestyle changes as soon as possible. A healthy diet and regular physical activity can also help lower cholesterol levels in adults and children. Before starting a new exercise program or making any changes to your diet, talk to a doctor first. However, at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day is recommended.
Treatment options for cholesterol
High cholesterol can be treated with medication, dietary changes, increased physical activity, and quitting smoking. This will vary depending on your age, gender, general health, and any other medications you may be taking.
If lifestyle changes don’t lower your cholesterol levels enough, your doctor may advise you to take medication. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to make lifestyle changes while on medication.
Here are some of the medications that help with high cholesterol:
Statins lower LDL cholesterol levels by slowing the production of cholesterol by the liver.
Bile acid sequestrants
These medications help lower your LDL cholesterol levels. These drugs prevent the absorption of bile acid from your stomach into the blood.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
These drugs lower triglyceride levels in the blood and reduce the absorption of cholesterol from food.
Vitamins and Supplements
Like niacin or nicotinic acid, it raises HDL cholesterol levels while lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Omega-3 fatty acids
These increase HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels and help improve overall cholesterol levels.
Fibrates help reduce triglycerides and remove LDL particles. It also increases apoA-I and apoA-II in the liver, which can raise HDL cholesterol levels.
These injectable medications help lower LDL, blood cholesterol levels. These drugs help people with familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition.
The most effective foods to lower cholesterol levels
Diet can be crucial in lowering cholesterol. Eat these foods to lower cholesterol and keep your heart healthy. However, before taking dietary supplements, consult your doctor.
Fish and omega-3 fatty acids
The anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, herring, and tuna can lower blood pressure and lower triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of sudden death in people who have already had a heart attack.
But omega-3 fatty acids have no impact on LDL cholesterol levels. However, because of the added health benefits of these acids, the American Heart Association advises eating at least two servings of fish per week. Flaxseeds and walnuts are all sources of omega-3 fatty acids in trace amounts.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts like walnuts can help increase HDL and lower LDL, triglycerides, and overall cholesterol in the blood.
A recent study claims that people who have had a heart attack in the past may have a lower risk of heart complications if their diet includes nuts like walnuts.
Avocados are a powerful source of nutrients, including monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Consuming an avocado daily as part of a heart-healthy diet may improve LDL cholesterol levels in overweight or obese people.
Avocado slices are a great addition to sandwiches, salads and other dishes. For example, a Mediterranean diet is good for your heart because it replaces saturated fats in red meat and dairy products with MUFAs like avocados.
Olive oil contains a lot of monounsaturated fatty acids and little saturated fat, which is better for the heart and raises HDL cholesterol. Try replacing olive oil with other types of fat in your diet. Use olive oil with vinegar to make salad dressing, sauté and marinate vegetables.
Oats and cereals
The soluble fiber in cereals and oats helps lower your “bad” cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL). Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood. Therefore, oatmeal is better than white flour for getting more fiber.
Your LDL cholesterol will drop if you eat five to ten grams of soluble fiber or more per day. Kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears are good sources of soluble fiber.
Cholesterol is essential for bodily functions, but its levels differ by age, weight, and gender. However, high total cholesterol, high “bad” cholesterol, or low “good” cholesterol can make you more susceptible to heart disease. These risks can be made worse if you smoke, drink alcohol, don’t follow a heart-healthy diet, or have a family history of high cholesterol.
As a result, doctors advise people over the age of 20 to have their cholesterol levels checked every five years. However, remember that cholesterol levels are not the complete picture; that’s only part of the story. Your doctor will also examine other aspects of your health to learn more about your heart problems.
HealthifyMe’s expert trainers clearly understand the cholesterol-related effects of diet and lifestyle. You can connect with them and get personalized advice to create a diet and exercise program that meets your specific cholesterol needs.
You can use HealthifyPro and its most recent version, HealthifyPro 2.0, to determine what foods are good for you, what lifestyle changes you need, and how much exercise you need. Moreover, you can opt for a personalized diet and fitness plan to help you achieve your goal weight and control obesity-related cholesterol with premium plan services.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. How do I check cholesterol levels at home?
A. Home cholesterol kits make it easy to check cholesterol at home. The test kits involve a lancet to prick a finger and a test strip to obtain a blood sample. People have to put the blood on this test strip and can send the sample to a lab for testing or put the test strip in an electronic meter at home to get results. The price of test kits can vary depending on whether they measure only total cholesterol or LDL, HDL and triglycerides. Follow all instructions or consult a healthcare professional for advice.
Q. What is dangerous cholesterol?
A. A person with total cholesterol levels above 240 mg/dL, LDL levels above 160 mg/dL, and HDL levels below 40 mg/dL is considered to be at high risk for developing heart disease. Unfortunately, high cholesterol has no symptoms. The only way to detect it is through blood tests or lipid panels.
Q. How do I maintain cholesterol levels?
A. The body needs cholesterol for many essential physiological functions, but when cholesterol levels get out of control, they can clog arteries and lead to heart disease. Changing your lifestyle is the first line of treatment to bring your cholesterol levels down to a safe level.
- Consuming unsaturated fats, soluble fiber, and plant sterols can increase HDL-C and decrease LDL-C.
- Reduce your alcohol and tobacco consumption and lose weight if you are overweight.
- When people exercise, their HDL levels rise, which removes LDL cholesterol from the blood.
- Consuming foods and supplements, such as soy and green tea, can help lower overall cholesterol.
Q. Do cholesterol levels change daily?
A. External or internal conditions sometimes cause sudden increases in blood cholesterol. This can include caffeine consumption, smoking, and physiological stress. A cholesterol test shows variations in blood cholesterol levels throughout the day, but the variance is not that great. In a single day, this can change by 8%.
Q. When is cholesterol high?
A. If you are 19 or younger, your total cholesterol level should be below 170 mg/dL. If you are 20 or older, your total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL. A reading over 240 mg/dL is very high.
Q. How often should you have your cholesterol levels checked?
A. According to CDC recommendations, most healthy adults should have their cholesterol levels checked every 5 years. However, people with diabetes, heart disease, or a family history of high cholesterol should check their cholesterol more often.
Q. How do I lower high cholesterol?
A. To lower your cholesterol, try reducing your intake of fatty foods, foods high in saturated fat like dairy products, and processed foods. Instead, eating soluble fiber such as oatmeal, kidney beans, and sprouts can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Eating heart-healthy foods along with regular exercise, losing weight, and quitting smoking and alcohol can all speed up this process.
Q. How do I test blood cholesterol levels?
A. The blood cholesterol test requires a simple blood test. This cholesterol test checks LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels in the blood. You can also get a home test kit.
Q. Will coconut oil raise cholesterol levels?
A. Excess coconut oil has been shown to raise cholesterol levels more than other vegetable oils like olive or canola. It is about 90% saturated fat, which raises levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart diseases like strokes and heart attacks. However, coconut oil when consumed in low to minimal amounts has been shown to benefit overall health and well-being.
Q. What raises LDL cholesterol levels?
A. High LDL cholesterol levels can result from saturated fats in red meat, fried foods, butter, cheese, baked goods, and other whole dairy products. An unhealthy lifestyle, your genes (family history), and certain medications can also contribute to high LDL levels. It is important to maintain low LDL cholesterol levels because it reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. The recommended LDL level should be below 100 mg/dL.