In the last blog we talked about how high total cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Today we will talk about how cholesterol is important to the body and how to get our cholesterol levels in the normal range.
Keeping your cholesterol in the normal range actually helps your body achieve optimal wellness so let’s get a better understanding of importance of cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a component of normal processing for the body. It is necessary for the formation of cell membranes and the creation of nerve cell coverings. It is also the backbone for steroid hormones necessary vital functions.
Our most familiar steroid hormones are female and male sex hormones. The female hormones are estrogens and progesterone and the male hormones are testosterone (androgen).
Cortisol, our next steroid hormone is responsible for managing stressful events, regulating blood sugar levels and reducing inflammation. Our final steroid hormone is aldosterone, which balances water and sugar in the body.
Cholesterol is used by the digestive system to make bile, the greenish substance that breaks down fats in the body. Bile is necessary for absorption in the intestine of dietary cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K. The body can also use cholesterol to produce vitamin D this is an essential vitamin for bone and immune health.
If cholesterol is responsible for all of these important functions in the body why is it so demonized for causing heart problems?
It is because when our body produces excess amounts of cholesterol it has damaging effects to the blood vessels and the heart. How do we keep our total cholesterol levels within the normal range under 200 mg/dl?
Surprisingly, diet is an important factor that can make a large difference in keeping cholesterol levels in the normal range.
Plant-based foods contain soluble fiber, especially lentils and beans, oats in many different forms, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, most types of nuts, flaxseeds, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.
Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the digestive system and pulls it out of the body, creating normal levels in the blood.
Excess amounts of animal products like meats, poultry, fish, cheese and dairy products can increase cholesterol levels. High levels of saturated fats or hydrogenated oils hidden in bread and pastry products can also increase cholesterol levels.
So increasing plant-based foods and eating animal-based in moderation a few times per week can substantially improve cholesterol levels in three to six months.
By the way, eating plant-based food also impacts other cholesterol markers besides total cholesterol. LDL is a carrier found in the blood that takes cholesterol produced in the liver to the organs. LDL is considered the “bad cholesterol” because it puts cholesterol into the bloodstream and the organs.
HDL, in contrast, is considered “good cholesterol” because it is a carrier that takes cholesterol from the organs back to the liver so it can be excreted in the bowels. With the soluble fiber found in plant foods HDL and LDL blood levels could improve.
The normal blood levels for LDL are between 100-129 mg/dl anything above 130mg/dl are considered high. Normal blood levels for HDL 60 mg/dl or above, anything below 40 mg/dl are considered low.
Cholesterol is an essential chemical for optimal wellness. Keeping the correct levels is important because once total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels are considered high, and the HDL cholestetol levels are considered low, it increases risks for heart disease. Eating soluble fiber can help create the balance.
Dr. Dae is a Naturopathic Physician who practices in the Washington DC metro area treats the whole person using safe and effective combinations of traditional and natural methods to produce optimal health and well-being in the lives of her patients.
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"High cholesterol - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-cholesterol/DS00178
Stone, Neil. "Discovery Health "How the Body Uses Cholesterol"." Discovery Health "Health Guides". N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2012. http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/cardiovascular/cholesterol/how-the-body-uses-cholesterol.htm
Zelman, Kathleen M.. "Dietary Fiber: Insoluble and Soluble Fiber." WebMD - Better information. Better health.. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2012. http://www.webmd.com/diet/fiber-health-benefits-11/insoluble-soluble-fiber
Reviewed February 10, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Add a Comment2 Comments
Too much of something is bad enough as the saying goes. I've been obese since I entered puberty. I wasn't really mindful of what's the consequence of being one before until such a time that I had developed Hypertension due to high cholesterol level. Exercise and diet was the best option given to me but since I can't perform those, I was told to use diet pills. Prescopodene helped me while I was on a minor exercise program. I got 3 sizes down and what I like about it is that, my cholesterol level dropped into normal values. Now at mid 30's, I now watch what I eat and I always make sure that exercising is healthy for the heart and should always be incorporated in or daily lives to be healthy.June 18, 2013 - 9:01pm
The equation to achieve a healthy body starts with eating whats healthy and living a healthy lifestyle. Sounds easier than done, I know but it can be attainable. Your lucky that you found the right pill that could help you lose weight. Most of the diet pills out in the market are far more dangerous. But congrats though, for dropping your high cholesterol level.July 5, 2013 - 6:44am