You may blame your family tree or fault the late-night binges on French fries and greasy hamburgers, but when high cholesterol levels strike, there is much cause for concern. The waxy, fat-like matter known as cholesterol is a substance that naturally occurs in all parts of the human body. In fact, the body needs at least a small amount of cholesterol to properly function. When too much of the material is found in the blood, this is when health issues begin to surface.
What is High Cholesterol?
When a high amount of cholesterol is found in the blood, the reserve that the body does not need finds other places to settle, such as the walls of the arteries. As cholesterol begins to stick to various parts of the body, it is referred to as “plaque,” which can narrow the arteries and even cause blockage. Not only is high cholesterol an unhealthy condition that strikes people of all ages, but it can also increase the risk of additional health ailments, such as heart disease .
In the United States, more than 100 million adults possess total blood cholesterol levels considered borderline-high risk, while close to 40 million American adults showcase levels considered a high risk .
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Since high cholesterol brings about no symptoms, it is often seen as a silent killer until proper screening and diagnosis takes place. Individuals must undergo a blood test (also called a lipid panel or lipid profile) in order to become aware of their cholesterol levels. Before the test is given, a patient should not eat or drink anything (besides water) for 9 to 12 hours in order to produce the most accurate reading. A doctor will administer the test to check the following measurements expressed in milligrams and deciliters:
a) Total Cholesterol:
A desirable measurement of a patient’s cholesterol should fall below 200 mg/dL. When a patient displays a borderline-high reading, their total cholesterol is between 200 and 239 mg/dL. High total cholesterol produces measurements of 240 mg/dL and above.
b) LDL Cholesterol:
LDL cholesterol measurements are important because they are closely connected to the risk of heart disease. A very high reading is 190 mg/dL and above, followed by high readings between 160 and 189 mg/dL. A patient with borderline-high LDL cholesterol showcases readings between 130 and 159 mg/dL. A near optimal reading is seen between 100 and 129 mg/dL. Individuals at a high risk for heart disease should aim for readings below 100 mg/d .
c) HDL Cholesterol:
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered a “good” type of cholesterol that attracts excess cholesterol and delivers it back to the liver. It is best when HDL cholesterol levels read 60 mg/dL and above. Acceptable readings range between 40 and 59 mg/dL, while measurements below 40 mg/dL are considered poor.
Triglycerides is a kind of fat found in the blood. Desirable measurements for triglycerides fall below 150 mg/dL. A borderline-high patient possesses a reading between 150-199 mg/dL, while a high reading is between 200 and 499 mg/dL. Anything above 500 is considered pretty high.
Causes of High Cholesterol
Cholesterol hitches a ride with proteins and travels throughout the body in the blood. A handful of lifestyle habits and controllable factors contribute to the development of this condition. Lack of exercise, being overweight, and following an unhealthy diet are just some of the characteristics that fit most patients with high cholesterol. Other causes cannot be avoided, such as a genetic makeup that prevents cells from efficiently removing LDL cholesterol from the blood. One may also possess a heredity trait that causes the liver to produce an excessive amount of cholesterol.
If you donít exercise, eat a lot of junk food, or carry around more than a few extra pounds, you are increasing your chances for high blood cholesterol. Additional risk factors include:
When a patient smokes, they are damaging the walls of their blood vessels, which make it easier for fat deposits to accumulate. Smoking is also known to lower the level of “good” HDL cholesterol.
b) High Blood Pressure:
When the artery walls encounter increased pressure, damage occurs that may increase the rate at which fatty deposits accumulate.
Men older than 45 years of age and who are more that 55-years old face an increased chance of high cholesterol.
d) Family History:
If a parent or sibling suffers from heart disease before they turn 55 years old, a patient may face high cholesterol levels as well that increase their risk of heart disease.
A patient with high blood sugar often possesses a high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol level. High amounts of sugar in the blood also lead to increased damage of the lining in the arteries.
Natural Cures for High Cholesterol
When high cholesterol is not detected in time, a variety of medical complications may develop. High cholesterol may cause atherosclerosis, which involves a threatening buildup of fatty deposits about the walls of the arteries. Coronary artery disease may strike. Also, when tears and ruptures occur, a blood clot may develop. As the flow of blood is significantly decreased, arteries become plugged and may lead to a heart attack. When the blood flow to the brain ceases, a stroke is the result.
To combat the side effects of common cholesterol-reducing prescription drugs, you may consider the following natural cures for high cholesterol:
Some patients have benefited from taking large doses of niacin (between 2 and 3 grams per day) to lower “bad” cholesterol, while increasing the “good” cholesterol .
b) Vitamin C:
Some studies show that people with high levels of vitamin C possess lower total cholesterol levels. Increasing the amount of vitamin C in the body may come from natural supplements or following a diet packed with fiber-filled foods. Fruits and vegetables are known to help lower cholesterol through colorful stir-fries, fruit salads, tasty soups, and casseroles filled with vegetables.
Garlic bulbs are known to reduce cholesterol levels, as well as lessen the risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis. Some people take one clove per day, while those with a high risk of heart attack may benefit from 2 grams of powdered garlic in capsule form.
d) Choose Whole-Grain Products:
A variety of food items on the market offer whole-grain options, such as bread, pasta, flour, and brown rice. Whole-grain foods like oatmeal and oat bran are also considered “superfoods” Ė thought to possess more cholesterol-lowering properties than some medications .
e) Eat More Fish:
There are some types of fish that contain a lower total fat count, saturated fat, and cholesterol than other meats and poultry. Healthy-heart boosting fish selections include salmon, herring, and mackerel, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Tuna, cod, and halibut offer less fat and cholesterol.
f) Opt For Monounsaturated Fat:
When cooking with oil, you should choose peanut, olive, and canola varieties, which are healthier for the heart. Additional food items containing monounsaturated fat includes walnuts and almonds.
g) Oolong Tea:
This type of tea contains phenols, which may slow up the absorption of cholesterol. Oolong tea also stimulates the circulatory system and acts as a tonic for blood vessels. The tea may also prevent atherosclerosis. Adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of loose oolong to a cup of boiled water works as a suitable infusion. Hypertension patients and pregnant women should limit their intake of oolong tea to two cups per day .
High Cholesterol Prevention
When it comes to additional preventative measures to keep high levels of cholesterol at bay, you may consider the following lifestyle changes: lose weight (even if only 5 to 10 pounds); eat heart-smart (fiber-filled foods); quit smoking; exercise on a regular basis; select healthy fats (lean-cut meats); drink alcohol in moderation; and watch your cholesterol intake (aiming for no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per day).
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