The Highs and Lows of Cholesterol

Of all the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, high blood cholesterol takes the cake. Even the slightest elevation of certain types of cholesterol can put blood vessels at risk for dangerous and sometimes deadly narrowing. It is estimated that 8% of Americans have no idea they have a cholesterol problem; they are a ticking time bomb because a heart attack or stroke may already be in the works. Learn the numbers that tell you where you stand.

Posted on | Comments ()

Total Cholesterol Values (this number alone is not a good gauge of cholesterol health)

  • Optimal – Less than 200 mg/dL
  • Borderline high – 200–239 mg/dL
  • Risky – 240 mg/dL and above

What can be done to normalize cholesterol?

LDL cholesterol is the most worrisome because even when LDL is slightly elevated, blood vessel narrowing occurs. And if is very high, it deposits much faster. Treatment is primarily focused on lowering LDL to an optimal level.

The first stop is adopting a healthy lifestyle and this includes the usual approaches:

Above that, people with abnormal cholesterol should eat less of the foods that increase LDL, and eat more that lower it. There is no good and bad dietary cholesterol. It is all just cholesterol.

Here are some food rules for people with high LDL:

  • Reduce intake of saturated fats to less than 7% of your total calories. These fats are found in animal products – butter, meat, eggs, whole milk dairy and cheese products – and certain oils, processed foods and baked goods. Reducing saturated fat can reduce LDL by up to 10%.
  • Don't eat more than 200 mg of cholesterol a day. It creeps up quickly so do your math. (The average American diet contains 400 mg of cholesterol a day.)
  • Eat more LDL-lowering foods like plant sterols and stanols (found in many grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sterol/stanol enriched products) and soluble fiber like oatmeal, psyllium and bran. Eating the leafy green purslane, and the Goji berry fruit might also have cholesterol-lowering effects.
  • Limit salt and sugar.

(You can find the nutritional value of foods on the food's label or look it up in this nutrition database.)