With all the health concerns surrounding high cholesterol it comes as no surprise that many people are watching their levels much more closely these days, and you may even be one of them. But are you aware of what cholesterol actually is and how it affects your health? Do you know where it comes from and how to control it so that it doesn’t become a limiting health factor in your life? If you’re unsure about any of these things and are interested in learning more then you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to uncover all of the nitty gritty details you’ve always wondered about that crazy little thing called cholesterol.
Your Body Needs Cholesterol
Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones and carry out various cell functions that are necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately when your LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, cholesterol levels become too high they combine with unhealthy fat and calcium to create plaque that builds up in your arteries. This buildup can lead to many health issues including but not limited to: heart problems, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
Here’s a fun fact for you — your body actually makes all of the cholesterol that it needs to function properly. The foods that you eat have a significant effect on how high or low your actual cholesterol levels are on any given day though thanks to their own nutritional values. Having low levels of cholesterol can be just as unhealthy as having levels that are too high, although not as likely.
The plaque that is caused by cholesterol builds over time, so even if you do not have high cholesterol or any heart problems right now you may be at risk later in life if you choose not to maintain a healthy diet. If too much plaque builds up not only will it affect the efficiency of your natural blood flow, it could also create a full blockage in your arteries.
Genetics Play A Role In Your Cholesterol Levels
As with most things in life, your genetics do play a role in your cholesterol levels. Especially your LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, cholesterol levels. Remember, that’s the one that you have to worry about. When it comes to genetics there is a condition called Familial Hypercholesterolemia. Those who have this condition are unable to remove LDL from their blood naturally and thus tend to have high cholesterol from a young age.
Even if you have Familial Hypercholesterolemia a healthy and balanced diet combined with regular exercise can help keep your LDL levels from becoming too high. Those with this condition may also need to take medication to control their cholesterol. Although genetic conditions like this are not usually things that can be defeated, they can be well managed and maintained so that they do not control your life.
On the other hand, just because you do not grow up with Familial Hypercholesterolemia does not mean that you are genetically immune from developing high blood cholesterol in the future. You still need to be conscious about the types of foods you are putting into your body and the effects they may have.
Lifestyle And Diet Affect Cholesterol
There are three different kinds of fat, saturated, unsaturated and trans fat. When it comes to eating healthy and keeping your blood cholesterol low you want to stick to unsaturated fats. These are the healthier of the three and can be found in olives and olive oils, nuts and nut butters, avocados, salmon and seeds. They help to increase the HDL, or high-density lipoproteins, in your body while simultaneously lowering the LDL, creating a healthy balance.
Cutting back on saturated fats such as butter, fatty meats, whole milk and rich cheeses is important to staying on top of your cholesterol levels. The USDA suggests attaining 10% or less of your daily caloric intake from saturated fats. The biggest culprit when it comes to high cholesterol though is trans fat. Trans fat is found in things like fried food, processed food and pastries. These should be avoided at all cost.
When life gets busy it can be difficult to stay away from saturated fats and trans fats because they are found in so many of the quick packaged snacks that we turn to when we’re in a rush. Unfortunately they are also prevalent in many restaurant meals and fast food options as well, which means that unless you are eating food that you prepared yourself everyday, you are likely getting too much of these unhealthy fats in your diet.
Not All Cholesterol Is Bad
It may seem with all this negative talk about cholesterol being thrown around that it does not have any benefits for your body, but that isn’t the case. You see there are two different types of cholesterol — HDL and LDL. HDL stands for high-density lipoproteins and this type of cholesterol is healthy. It is responsible for carrying cholesterol to your liver for it to be removed from your body once it is done carrying out its necessary functions.
The cholesterol that creates the plaque that builds up within your body is called LDL, which stands for low-density lipoproteins and this is the type we’ve been focused on in this article. When your LDL number becomes too high your risk for heart disease increases. Experts agree that cholesterol levels should be checked at least once every five years to ensure they are not at dangerous levels.
How To Keep HDL High and LDL Low
If you are serious about maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and you should be regardless of your medical history, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your HDL levels stay higher while your LDL levels stay lower.
1. Meal Prep
By meal prepping and packing your own meals you will be less likely to consume foods that are higher in saturated fats or trans fats because your homemade healthy meals will be the faster and easier option. This means that you won’t find yourself running out for fast food just to eradicate your hunger or counting coins for the vending machine to get in a quick snack.
Do not wait until your health is starting to decline to start a regular workout routine. This will only make starting and staying committed harder on yourself. Instead, start working out now while you’re healthy so that you can stay that way. Do not think of working out as something that you have to do but rather something that you want to do so that you can live a longer and happier life.
3. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated may seem like something that should go without saying but studies show that nearly 75% of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration without even knowing it. Even mild dehydration can cause us health problems and yet many of us walk around every day without drinking enough water.
Everyone knows that to stay hydrated you have to drink enough water. But what some people do not realize is that you also have to stay away from dehydrating beverages like soda, tea and coffee. If you do choose to partake in these beverages it is even more important that you drink additional water throughout the day to balance yourself out.
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