What Are The Causes Of High Cholesterol Levels? What Can You Do About It?
What does high cholesterol have to do with heart disease? Other TV commercials seem to promote a new miracle way to wipe out cholesterol. But what does science and experience tell us? Let’s take a few minutes to set the record straight and dispel some of the myths about the effects of high cholesterol on our hearts, health and longevity.
Identify the root cause of high cholesterol
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in every cell in the body. If you don’t have enough cholesterol, your body can’t make the good hormones, vitamin D and other materials that make digestion possible.
However, a variety of factors can conspire to raise your cholesterol to unhealthy levels. High cholesterol means that the level of cholesterol in your body has gone from useful and necessary to potentially dangerous. The main causes of high cholesterol include
- Being overweight, obesity can cause cholesterol to spike to unhealthy levels.
- Lack of exercise. Exercise increases HDL, also known as “good cholesterol”. Inactivity has the opposite effect.
- Smoking doesn’t just affect your lungs. It also damages the walls of your blood vessels, making it easier for fatty deposits to enter.
- As you age, your body’s ability to maintain healthy cholesterol levels decreases.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar levels promote another form of bad cholesterol, called VLDL (very low density lipoprotein). High blood sugar also damages the lining of the arteries.
Ultimately, many of the causes of high blood cholesterol are within our control. We have the ability to choose what we eat, how much we exercise, whether we smoke (and if so, whether we quit), and whether we adopt a healthy lifestyle. (We said it was a choice – it’s not that easy!)
In many cases, we can prevent the onset of chronic diseases like diabetes. Other factors, such as age and genetics, are beyond our control. The trick is to work on the things we can do and be aware of the things we can’t do.
How does cholesterol pave the way for heart disease?
The problem arises when cholesterol in the blood reaches dangerous levels. When this happens, it starts to stick to the walls of your arteries. The more cholesterol builds up, the tighter your arteries become. This condition is called atherosclerosis.
Over time, the blood flow to the heart slows down. Since oxygen reaches your heart through your blood, your heart loses vital oxygen. You may begin to experience chest pain and other symptoms. Eventually, the blood flow may be cut off completely, so that blood cannot reach the heart. This is when a heart attack occurs.
Each year, more than 17 million deaths worldwide are linked to heart disease. While these numbers are alarming, there is another important statistic: about 80% of heart disease deaths are preventable; 8 out of 10 lives – more than 13 million deaths per year – can be prevented through proper education, lifestyle changes and treatment.
So let’s take a look at some proven ways to lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, and even save lives.
From medication to meditation, dietary changes, exercise programs and breathing exercises, there are many ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. If you or someone close to you needs to manage high cholesterol, the most effective approach depends on your cholesterol levels, general health, lifestyle and genetic factors.
Here are three ways to consider with your healthcare team.
Prescription drugs and other medical treatments involving medications may not be your first choice, but they may be the fastest way to control your cholesterol. Effective cholesterol-lowering medications have been around for decades. Some of the most common methods include.
- A drug that prevents the liver from making cholesterol.
- Bile acid Sequestrants. These limit the absorption of fat from our food.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors. They lower triglycerides and limit the absorption of cholesterol.
- This supplement lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing healthy LDL cholesterol. Note: Niacin is available without a prescription, but should not be taken until you consult your doctor. Niacin can be effective, but may have serious side effects).
- PCSK9 inhibitors. These drugs help the liver remove LDL cholesterol.
- This drug has been shown to lower triglycerides while increasing good cholesterol.
- Alcohol and cholesterol: Drinking responsibly
Can happy hour help your heart health? It depends on how often you drink, how much you drink, and to some extent, what kind of adult beverages you drink. For your own health, let’s review the precautions and precautions to take before you drink.
As mentioned above, your body produces all the cholesterol it needs to be healthy. The foods you eat should not supply cholesterol at all. So, the first promising news is that beer, wine and alcohol do not contain cholesterol. However, you need to be careful what you mix in your drinks. For example, sodas and soft drinks contain a lot of sugar.
Let’s take a quick look at these three main categories of mindfulness
- Beer: Like other alcoholic beverages, beer does not contain cholesterol. However, it does contain carbohydrates, which can raise triglycerides. Beer also contains plant sterols, which help remove cholesterol. However, the amount of phytosterols is too small to have much of an effect on cholesterol.
- Liqueurs Hard liquors such as vodka, gin, tequila and whiskey do not contribute to cholesterol. However, the flavors often contain sugar, which, combined with alcohol, can trigger excess triglycerides.
- Unlike beer, which contains very small amounts of plant sterols, the plant sterols in red wine, known as resveratrol, can reduce inflammation and prevent blood clots. These effects are short-lived, but may help increase “good” cholesterol. Further research is needed, but drinking your favorite Malbec in moderation may help reduce the risk of certain heart diseases.
What does it mean to drink “in moderation”? According to the National Institutes of Health, moderation means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Older adults who follow this guideline are less likely to develop heart disease than those who drink heavily. If you exceed this limit, your alcohol intake will eventually raise your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Heart-healthy foods: Adding these foods can lower your cholesterol.
There’s been a lot of discussion about heart-healthy diets. But if you’re out of time (or patience), take this shopping list.
- Oats: What you’ve heard is true: A good bowl of oatmeal or oat-based breakfast cereal provides heart-healthy soluble fiber.
- Whole grains: Whole grains, such as barley and oat bran, also provide heart-healthy soluble fiber.
- Legumes: Legumes have many benefits. Not only do they contain soluble fiber, but they also contain cholesterol-free protein, which can help you lose weight.
- Nuts: A handful of nuts can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while providing other heart-protective nutrients.
- Fruits: Fruits high in pectin, such as apples, grapes and citrus fruits, can help lower LDL cholesterol.
- Fatty fish. Eating a fish-based diet twice a week provides healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and help keep your heart rate normal.
- Fiber supplements. Although not as tasty as natural fiber, a few tablespoons of psyllium per day can provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber.