National Cholesterol Education Month
How You Can Reduce Your Risk and Improve Your Health
Two of the main pushes of cholesterol guidelines revolve around the importance of having your cholesterol measured and knowing your risk of developing heart disease.
Controlling blood cholesterol levels can lower your risk for heart disease. It is critical for ALL adults - including healthy young adults - to have their cholesterol levels tested. The importance of screening, evaluation and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults cannot be emphasized enough.
Research has clearly shown that lowering cholesterol can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Cholesterol lowering is important for young, middle-aged, and older adults.
1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of every 3 women will develop heart disease sometime in their life. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States and about 1.25 million heart attacks occur each year in the United States.
Whether you have heart disease already or want to prevent it, you can reduce your risk for having a heart attack by lowering your cholesterol level.
Why does blood cholesterol matter?
Blood cholesterol plays an important part in deciding a person’s chance or risk of getting coronary heart disease. The higher your blood cholesterol levels, the greater your risk. High blood cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, the excess builds up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the heart. Over time, this build-up can narrow the arteries, slow down and impede the flow of blood to the heart. Thereby, possibly leading to a heart attack and related symptoms.
Cholesterol buildup is the most common cause of heart disease and it happens so slowly that you are not even aware of it. The higher your blood cholesterol, the greater your chance of cholesterol buildup.
All adults age 20 and over should have their total blood cholesterol checked at least every 5 years. Blood cholesterol levels of under 200 mg/dl are called "desirable" and put you at a lower risk for heart disease. Unlike total cholesterol, the lower your HDL, the higher your risk for heart disease. A HDL level less than 35 mg/dl increases your risk of heart disease. The higher your HDL level, the better.
Desirable Cholesterol Levels:
Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL
Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol): Less than 100 mg/dL
High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good" cholesterol): 40 mg/dL or higher
Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL
Importance of Lowering Your Cholesterol Levels
- Studies among people with heart disease have shown that lowering
cholesterol can reduce the risk for dying from heart disease,
having a nonfatal heart attack, and needing heart bypass
surgery or angioplasty.
- Studies among people without heart disease have shown that lowering cholesterol can reduce the risk for developing heart disease, including heart attacks and deaths related to heart disease. This is true for those with high cholesterol levels and even for those with average levels.
Even if your blood cholesterol level is close to the desirable range, you can lower it and reduce your risk of getting heart disease. Eating a heart healthy way, being physically active and losing weight if you are overweight are things everyone can do to help lower their levels. The good news is that people CAN prevent heart disease by controlling risk factors that can be modified. By lowering risk factors – through exercise, reducing saturated fats and cholesterol-containing foods, quitting smoking, and reducing excess weight, people can minimize their risk of ever developing coronary heart disease.
What Makes Your Cholesterol High or Low?
Your blood cholesterol level is influenced by many factors. These include what you eat, being overweight, lack of physical activity, heredity, your age and your gender. Many factors determine whether your LDL-cholesterol level is high or low. The following factors are the most important:
- Heredity - Your genes influence how high
your LDL ("bad") cholesterol is by affecting how fast LDL
is made and removed from the blood. One specific form of
inherited high cholesterol that affects 1 in 500 people is
familial hypercholesterolemia, which often leads to early
heart disease. But even if you do not have a specific genetic
form of high cholesterol, genes play a role in influencing
your LDL-cholesterol level.
- What you eat - Two main nutrients in the
foods you eat make your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level go
up: saturated fat, a type of fat found mostly in foods that
come from animals; and cholesterol, which comes only from
animal products. Saturated fat raises your LDL-cholesterol
level more than anything else in the diet. Eating too much
saturated fat and cholesterol is the main reason for high
levels of cholesterol and a high rate of heart attacks. Reducing
the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat is a
very important step in reducing your blood cholesterol levels.
- Weight - Excess weight tends to increase
your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level. If you are overweight
and have a high LDL-cholesterol level, losing weight may
help you lower it. Weight loss also helps to lower triglycerides
and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.
- Physical activity/exercise - Regular physical
activity may lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and raise HDL
("good") cholesterol levels.
- Age and sex - Before the age of menopause,
women usually have total cholesterol levels that are lower
than those of men the same age. As women and men get older,
their blood cholesterol levels rise until about 60 to 65
years of age. After the age of about 50, women often have
higher total cholesterol levels than men of the same age.
- Alcohol - Alcohol intake increases HDL
("good") cholesterol but does not lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Doctors don't know for certain whether alcohol also reduces
the risk of heart disease. Drinking too much alcohol can
damage the liver and heart muscle, lead to high blood pressure,
and raise triglycerides. Because of the risks, alcoholic
beverages should not be used as a way to prevent heart disease.
- Stress - Stress over the long term has been shown in several studies to raise blood cholesterol levels. One way that stress may do this is by affecting your habits. For example, when some people are under stress, they console themselves by eating fatty foods. The saturated fat and cholesterol in these foods contribute to higher levels of blood cholesterol.
How Can You Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?
The main goal of cholesterol-lowering treatment is to lower your LDL level enough to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. The higher your risk, the lower your LDL goal will be. There are two main ways to lower your cholesterol:
- Lifestyle Changes – includes a cholesterol-lowering
diet, physical activity, and weight management. Lifestyle
changes revolve around a proper diet with low saturated fat,
trans-fats and low cholesterol foods and eating plan as well
as weight management, physical activity, drug treatment and
stopping smoking. To reduce your risk for heart disease or
keep it low, it is also very important to control any other
risk factors you may have such as high blood pressure and
- Drug Treatment – if cholesterol-lowering drugs are needed, they are used together with lifestyle changes and treatment to help lower your LDL. Natural remedies are excellent tools as treatments for helping to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risks.
Natural Remedies and How They Lower Cholesterol
Herbs and other natural products have been around much longer than the standard prescription drugs used today to control high cholesterol.
There are many natural alternatives to treating high cholesterol. This may be especially optimal to patients who are regulating their cholesterol levels with diet and exercise. Natural products reduce cholesterol levels by dissolving fat in the blood.
Alternatives to prescription drugs are being viewed with increasing interest especially since the withdrawal from the market of the prescription cholesterol-lowering drug Baycol after numerous deaths associated with its use.
The following list includes natural products that have been noted to reduce cholesterol levels through research:
- B Vitamins, besides niacin, decrease the rate at which LDL is damaged through oxidation.
- Carnitine has been seen to increase HDL levels, therefore decreasing total cholesterol levels.
- Chromium has been seen to reduce LDL levels and increase HDL levels.
- Coenzyme Q10 has been noted to reduce total cholesterol serum levels.
- Fiber can be obtained through fiber supplements or through foods such as whole grains and vegetables. It is thought that fiber binds to cholesterol in the small intestine and preventing cholesterol absorption into the bloodstream.
- Garlic has been widely studies for its cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Grape Seed Extract has been noted to reduce total cholesterol serum levels.
- Pantothine has been seen to increase HDL levels, therefore decreasing total cholesterol levels.
- Red yeast rice contains a natural form of lovastatin. Effective natural product for cholesterol control. Included in Native Remedies Cholesto-Rite capsules.
- Royal Jelly has been seen to lower cholesterol levels by reducing some of the cholesterol-elevating effects of nicotine.
- Soy has been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels
- Vitamin C has been noted to slightly reduce cholesterol levels.
Natural supplements should be used as a part of an overall program that includes dietary and lifestyle changes as referenced previous.
A Proven, Effective and Natural Aid for Controlling Cholesterol
Native Remedies’ Cholesto-Rite is a highly effective, proven and safe herbal remedy that controls good and bad cholesterol levels naturally. Cholesto-Rite not only lowers LDL cholesterol, but also increases levels of HDL, the 'good' form of cholesterol that helps to remove excessive LDL from the bloodstream and prevent the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Regular use of Cholesto-Rite can help to balance the system and prevent heart disease and stroke, as well as ensure healthy arteries.
You can effectively manage and lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your chances of developing coronary heart disease by following the advice and information prescribed above. This includes healthy lifestyle changes such as following a diet regimen high in low fat, low cholesterol foods, exercise, testing and treatments for managing, reducing and improving cholesterol levels. Remember, having high cholesterol places you at risk for more serious complications so it is vital to take care of your cholesterol levels to take best care of your health.
Federal Occupational Health (FOH)
NHLBI- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Cardiovascular Health Program
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
About.com – Jennifer Moll “Your Guide to Cholesterol”