What can we do about Cholesterol?

high cholesterol factors

Cholesterol can be defined as a common steroid found in the membranes of most animal cells, involved in the regulation of the fluidity of the membrane (Denniston, Topping, Caret, & R., 2017). The body uses cholesterol to produce different hormones and bile used in digestion.  

If there is too much cholesterol in the bloodstream, it is deposited along the walls of the arteries, causing narrowing and blockage of the arteries. In 2015-2016 (the last year that data is available) over 12% of adults age 20 had total cholesterol levels that fell in the danger range. High cholesterol is and should be treated as a symptom of heart disease, and there are various diet and lifestyle changes that can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and ultimately prevent heart disease.

For years, cholesterol has been treated as a disease rather than a risk factor. However, high cholesterol levels should be seen to directly correlate with high risk for heart disease. High cholesterol happens when there is too much cholesterol in the bloodstream due to a variety of factors - to include heredity, diet, and lifestyle.

There are no symptoms of high cholesterol, however, high cholesterol can be detected through a blood panel collected during a regular annual check up with a primary care physician. Many times, the physician may suggest diet and lifestyle changes, such as “eat less fat” or “exercise more.” However, if cholesterol levels remain the same despite the patient making the recommended lifestyle changes, a doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications, including statins, which interfere with the production of cholesterol in the liver.

Turning to drugs to treat the symptoms should never be the only way that you treat a symptom. If all you do is throw drugs at the symptom, then the root of the problem goes untreated and as soon as you take the drugs away (which should always be the result aimed for) then the symptom returns.

When implementing a drug therapy, there are lifestyle changes that need to take place -- lifestyle, many times, and especially in terms of high cholesterol, is usually a major contributing factor to the symptom.

First, adopting a healthy lifestyle is the most important step a person can take for their overall health and wellness. Exercising regularly (five days a week for at least thirty minutes a day), quitting smoking, and losing weight are all great first steps. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has many other health benefits, such as lower blood pressure and reduced stress.

Furthermore, diet can directly contribute to lower cholesterol levels, but an emphasis should be placed on a balanced diet, not necessarily focusing on removing certain nutrients or including others. People with high cholesterol levels should work to reduce saturated fat in their diets, and include a wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates to maintain a healthy weight.

High cholesterol has evolved as a disease of the Western diet, with the way that we eat and the lifestyle that we lead contributing to high risk for cardiovascular diseases. However, this condition can be reversed with healthy diet and lifestyle changes.

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