The Great Cholesterol Debate: What You Should Be Aware of
Cholesterol can be beneficial or detrimental. We need cholesterol, it is found in all of our cells and helps them keep their membranes at just the right consistency. Our body also manufactures things with cholesterol, such as steroid hormones, vitamin D and bile. Cholesterol plays an essential role in all these processes! But, cholesterol can become detrimental if it adheres to artery walls, forming plaque that restricts blood flow. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque narrows an artery's space within it, and if inflamed it can rupture. The body's natural healing response to damaged tissue, including ruptured blood vessels, may result in blood clots. If these clots block arteries in your heart, vital oxygen cannot reach your heart, leading to a heart attack. If the blood vessels of either the brain or carotid arteries of the neck become blocked, this could result in a stroke. When cholesterols levels, specifically the Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), are high your doctor will prescribe you a statin medication, to lower the LDL in order to prevent cardiovascular events. There are natural ways to manage cholesterol, practiced at cholesterol alternative treatment clinics and at Vitality Wellness we offer a free initial consultation over the phone, where we can explain more about our holistic approach to managing high cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a lipid that does not dissolve in water and travels through the bloodstream to various parts of the body that require it. While the liver produces enough cholesterol for our needs, additional amounts come from foods we consume. Although our bodies have mechanisms to eliminate excess cholesterol, this process may become overburdened resulting in excessive levels circulating throughout our system. Thus, understanding cholesterol's functions and why it matters helps us maintain healthy levels and take corrective actions when needed.
Cholesterol plays a significant role in the body, such as creating protective layers around cell membranes, aiding with digestion of food through production of bile, and supporting hormone and vitamin D production.
Cholesterol is essential for the body, but having too much can lead to health issues - particularly an increased risk of coronary artery disease. While the body produces all the cholesterol necessary, genetics and diet can impact how effectively your system maintains healthy levels. Therefore, pay attention to how diet affects cholesterol production and take necessary actions accordingly. Cholesterol exists in all cells throughout the body but travels through the bloodstream attached to proteins and triglycerides in a particle known as a lipoprotein.
Elevated LDL Cholesterol Levels
High LDL cholesterol is not always bad, but it can still be an inflammatory marker linked to cardiovascular risk. Laboratory test results that deem your LDL high may indicate inflammation or other issues in the body. LDL becomes problematic once it has oxidized and is considered a risk factor for heart disease. Unfortunately, there's no way to test if your LDL has undergone oxidization or not; hence why doctors still associate higher levels of LDL with an increased likelihood of heart disease regardless.
Have you ever noticed swelling and redness around an injury? That's inflammation - it's actually your body's way of protecting itself and speeding up the healing process. However, when inflammation begins, the liver may release more LDL cholesterol to provide extra nutrients and support hormone production. The problem is that this cholesterol can become vulnerable to oxidation, even if there's no plaque buildup in the arteries.
This is particularly troubling, as chronic inflammation in the body can lead to serious illnesses like cancer, autoimmune disorders, and other chronic illnesses. Therefore, it's essential to be aware of the potential negative consequences of inflammation even if you can't observe any physical signs.
So What Should You Do if Your LDL Gets Oxidized?
This is when High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) comes to the rescue, extracting LDL from artery walls and returning it to the liver for breakdown, helping reduce plaque buildup. Low HDL numbers mean there are fewer carriers for removing oxidized LDL particles, so increasing HDL is a health-protective measure regardless of what your total cholesterol or LDL numbers are.
HDL acts as an antioxidant within the body and helps remove oxidized LDL. Additionally, HDL serves as an anti-inflammatory agent which is beneficial regardless of what else is going on. One way to boost HDL levels is through regular exercise; studies have demonstrated this boost. Eating foods high in monounsaturated fats such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil also tends to boost HDL concentrations.
Even though, HDL may be considered "good" cholesterol, having too much of it in the body is linked to potentially increasing the risk of heart disease.
Protect yourself against the negative consequences of high levels of cholesterol by taking proactive measures to maintain optimal cholesterol and overall wellbeing. These may include sticking to an exercise routine, eating balanced meals, maintaining your ideal weight, quitting smoking and managing stress effectively. There are plenty of simple lifestyle changes you can make to lower your cholesterol levels without relying on medication. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends the following, to keep your cholesterol levels healthy:
Eat a healthy balanced diet that includes a variety of unprocessed wholesome foods and keep meal portions small. You can always take seconds if you really want to! Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and stay clear of sugary drinks.
Cook at home and make homemade meals your main source of meals. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables, fresh or frozen.
Avoid ingredients or products with a high level of fat, sugar and salt- learn to read food labels!
Manage your weight, and keep it at a normal level.
Be active and make physical activity an integral part of your day. If you tend to sit too long, take breaks to stretch and plan daily activities.
Do not smoke