Healthy Versus Unhealthy Cholesterol
When we hear the word cholesterol, most of us go negative. After all, cholesterol has been vilified and the word rarely comes up in a positive conversation about your health. However, cholesterol is a significant building block of a healthy body and is a critical part of every cell in your body. It is necessary to make vitamins, hormones, and digestive juices. So where does the discrepancy arise?
The biggest problem is that we have over-generalized the word “cholesterol.” However, if you look at your cholesterol reading, you will see three numbers. High Density Lipoprotein or HDL, Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL, and triglycerides. The HDL reading should be as high as possible and represents what we colloquial term “good cholesterol.” It is the LDL and triglycerides we are looking to lower and minimize.
Further, you may notice that extremely healthy and nutritious foods such as some shellfish and eggs are high in cholesterol. Sometime ago, there was a movement to classify these foods as bad because of this cholesterol. However, recent research has shown that these cholesterols are an excellent part of a healthy diet and there is a distinction between good and bad cholesterol.
So, What Should We Be Avoiding?
The bottom line is that anything fried or heavily processed truly does contain bad saturated fats that increase your blood cholesterol. If you look at the nutrition label on your food, you’ll find many of the worst offenders are very high in saturated fat and often sugar/or sodium. Unfortunately, many of us simply do consider nutrition when we are eating out or at the grocery store. Don’t believe the marketing without verifying it yourself! Ultimately, you should not consider cholesterol to be a bad word. It is a compound that our body needs. Instead, it is hyperlipidemia – high levels of fats circulating in the blood, that we wish to avoid.
What Can We Do?
We can lower our cholesterol levels by improving our lifestyle through a better diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and unsaturated fats as well as quality exercise, which includes cardio and strength training.
Of course, some of us have extremely high cholesterol levels that put us at significant risk for atherosclerosis and ultimately a heart attack. Some of these patients may need intervention in the form of cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins.
You can learn more about medical therapy for hyperlipidemia by scheduling a consultation with one of our cardiologists.