Heart disease often starts with a build-up of cholesterol on the blood vessel walls. This creates inflammation and inflammation is a precursor to Cancer. Since February is American Heart Month and National Cancer Prevention Month and February 4 being World Cancer Day, I thought it would be most fitting to discuss cholesterol at the beginning of February.

 

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance found in all cells of the human body. Cholesterol is made by the liver and is important in making hormones and vitamin D. It also aids in digestion, and protects the nerves and performs many other important functions in our body.

We all need cholesterol, but did you know the liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs? That’s right! We do not need to eat cholesterol because we already have all the cholesterol we need. So what’s the big deal about cholesterol?

First, we need to understand there are many different kinds of cholesterol.

 

 

 

 

We will discuss two kinds.

High Density Lipoproteins —  and —  Low Density Lipoproteins

High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

We will call High Density Lipoproteins (HDL), Happy” cholesterol. This kind of cholesterol keeps our organs and body happy by carrying the cholesterol from various parts of the body to the liver. The liver regulates what happens to cholesterol; It can be stored for later use, removed or eliminated from the body or it can be recycled and sent to areas in the body where it is needed. “Happy” cholesterol circulates in the blood and functions as a garage truck would in a city. It goes around picking up all the trash and disposing of it in the proper place (in this case, the liver).

What should my lab value be for “Happy” cholesterol (HDL)?

We want lots of “Happy” cholesterol!

Research is showing the best levels for HDL, is

greater than 50 mg/dl for women and
greater than 40 mg/dl for men.

How can I raise my “Happy” cholesterol?

Increasing your activity levels and eating high fiber, whole foods such as

  • Legumes (beans, peas, and lentils),
  • fruits,
  • vegetables,
  • freshly ground flaxseeds,
  • chia seeds, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds)
  • nuts (especially walnuts and almonds)

will help improve your “Happy” cholesterol levels.

Also,

  • staying hydrated,
  • getting direct sunlight every day,
  • sleeping well,
  • having pleasant thoughts and
  • healthy relationships,

all impact our cholesterol levels as well as our total wellbeing.

Low Density Lipoproteins

We will call Low Density Lipoproteins, “Lousy Cholesterol”.

This type is lousy because it hangs around like bad company. When we eat cholesterol-rich foods, the excess cholesterol (in the form of plaque) builds up on the walls of our blood vessels (called atherosclerosis) causing narrowing of the blood vessels and can lead to reduced blood flow, increased pressure of the blood flow and/or total blockage of blood flow leading to a stroke or heart attack; some pretty lousy stuff, wouldn’t you agree?

What should my lab value be for “Lousy” Cholesterol (LDL)?

Your LDL level should be less than 100 mg/dl.

Research from the Framingham Heart Study has shown that cardiac events (heart attack, atherosclerosis, etc,) have dropped to nearly zero when the total cholesterol level (combination of all types of cholesterol) is less than 150 mg/dl. But in order to get our cholesterol within that range, we must first understand what foods contain cholesterol.

Where is cholesterol found?

Cholesterol is found in anything that has a liver, or comes from something that had a liver. Therefore all animal products contain cholesterol, including

  • meat,
  • fish,
  • poultry,
  • eggs,
  • milk and
  • cheese products.

Cholesterol is NOT found in any plant foods.

How can I reduce my “Lousy” cholesterol?

Since the human body make all the necessary cholesterol and since cholesterol is found only in animal products, if we want to lower your cholesterol, then it would be logical we would need be to reduce our dietary (food) cholesterol, (i.e. animal products) and start eating more whole plant foods (i.e. vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes) that contain fiber. Fiber help clean up the walls of the vessels.

If we continue to eat the very thing that is causing the problem, how can the body heal? How can we expect to get better? But if we significantly reduce or eliminate the cause, which in this case is dietary cholesterol, we can reduce the cholesterol level naturally.

It may take some adjustment, but many have gone before you, and have had great success at changing their eating habits and lowering their cholesterol and you can be too!

To help you get on your way to better cholesterol, sign-up for my weekly recipes.
On Tasty Tuesday we will post a Low Cholesterol Recipe!

 Click here for Recipes to Reduce Cholesterol on Tasty Tuesday! —