When it comes to the topic of cholesterol, and its effects on your health, I can’t blame you if you feel confused. New information is continuously being put forth, often with contradictory diet and medication recommendations. Long-held beliefs about health are hard overcome. We’ve all heard advice to eat a low fat diet and watch your cholesterol on one day and the next day hear that it doesn’t matter if you eat a lot of fats but you should simply avoid carbohydrates.
Is important to realize that not all cholesterol is bad. It is needed for the production of steroid hormones as well as building cell membranes. Cholesterol is transported by Lipo proteins. Low density lipoprotein or LDL is the “bad” protein that tends to cause deposition of fat and high density lipoprotein or HDL is the “good” lipoprotein because it functions to transport cholesterol back to the liver. Your ratio of HDL to LDL is a critical component for overall health. Regular exercise, particularly aerobic activities improve this ratio.
Although it has received a lot of bad press, fat consumption is not directly associated with heart disease. The most significant component of saturated fat consumption is that it is calorie-dense and can lead to obesity and metabolic syndrome. The quality of fats in your diet is the most important factor. The most important way to maintain good health is improve the omega-3 fatty acid component of all your meat or fat components and decrease simple carbohydrate consumption.
We’ve all heard that statins are an effective class of cholesterol lowering drugs that are widely used to improve your lab values. The target LDL level for a healthy person is below 100 and for a person with heart disease, the LDL target is below 70. Across a large population, these drugs save lives but they are not completely benign. They can be associated with diabetes, myalgias or abnormal liver function tests.
Fortunately, there is much you can do about your cholesterol level. Diet and exercise are always the first steps. Perform a mixture of both aerobic and strengthening exercises. When you eat fats, choose high omega-3 fats. Be a vegephile and avoid processed foods and simple carbohydrates. You’re allowed to drink a small amount of alcohol, preferably red wine, but definitely avoid smoking!