Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cholesterol - A Necessary Evil?

Cholesterol is a necessary substance for the body. It is produced by the liver to insulate nerves and is used in the production of certain hormones. Unfortunately, when there is more that the body can use, it builds up along the walls of arteries, which can limit blood flow to the heart, brain, and other organs.

Fortunately, the liver also makes a "good" cholesterol, the high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL has the ability to attract "bad" cholesterol and return it to the liver for reprocessing. For this reason, an optimal cholesterol profile includes not just low "bad" cholesterol levels, but also high "good" cholesterol levels.

Most people can promote healthy cholesterol levels naturally. There is a small percentage of people that have a genetic disorder that keeps cholesterol high regardless of what they do. Although following healthy guidelines may help, they will need to stay on cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Natural Ways to a Healthy Cholesterol Profile

Reduce your intake of saturated fat. Saturated fat stimulates the liver to produce LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Cut back on animal foods such as meats, unskinned poultry, whole milk and whole milk products, and butter. Use of monounsaturated fats may help lower LDL cholesterol, so cook with olive oil. Choose a non-hydrogenated spread made with olive or canola oil. (Note: A recent study has found that dietary cholesterol (such as egg yolks and other animal products) is not as important as watching your intake of saturated fats.

Recent developments have shown that two new margarines, using plant sterols, can lower cholesterol with regular use.

Watch for trans-fatty acids. These fats act much like saturated fats in your body, but they also lower HDL ("good") cholesterol. Avoid deep fried foods (fast food), vegetable shortening, margarine, and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils (commercial snack foods).

Stop smoking. Smoking increase total cholesterol and decreases HDL cholesterol. Kids exposed to passive smoke lowered their HDL cholesterol by 10 percent.

Exercise. Regular aerobic exercise can raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol. A brisk walk of 45 minutes a day, five days a week, should do it.

Watch your weight. Losing extra weight around the middle can improve cholesterol levels.
Natural Supplements Substituting soy products for animal protein can reduce total and LDL cholesterol by 10 percent in nine weeks. Adding at least 7 grams of soluble fiber per day can lower both total and LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber can be found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Good sources are apples, lentils, dried beans, peas, barley, flaxseed, citrus fruits, carrots, and oats. Supplements containing chitosan has also been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol.

Antioxidants and Cholesterol

Drinking three or more cups of green tea a day prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the first step in the formation of arterial plaque) better than vitamin C. Green tea contains polyphenols that act as powerful antioxidants. Add one to two raw or lightly cooked garlic cloves a day to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides.

Shitake mushrooms contain eritadenine, which lowers cholesterol in animal studies. Drinking 12 to 14 ounces of purple grape juice per day for two weeks appears to delay the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (as reported at the Annual American College of Cardiology meeting). Both red wine and purple grape juice contain flavonoids, which is being studied for their healthy properties. One drawback is that drinking either may provide more alcohol or sugar than you want to add to your diet, especially if you are watching your weight. Other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, also delay oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Make sure your vitamin supplements supply your daily antioxidant needs.

Excess stress keeps more LDL cholesterol in circulation, leading to greater chances of plaque formation. Learning to relax through breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga may reduce your risk.

Still Out of Control?

If you have made all of the above changes and you still have a total cholesterol level between 200 and 240, you may want to add Red Yeast Rice to your diet. Tufts University researchers reported that Red Yeast Rice lowered total cholesterol and average of 16.4 percent, a decrease in LDL of 21 percent, and an increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol of 14.6 percent, with no significant side effects.

Important Red Yeast Rice Update

If all else fails, ask your doctor about cholesterol lowering drugs. People that cannot get their cholesterol levels down any other way may need to add a prescription drug. (If you do take these drugs, you may want to add Coenzyme Q10, as some of these drugs may block the production of this enzyme.

Position Statement

The statements on these web pages have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products listed on these pages are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

As always, before utilizing any Alternative or Complementary Medicine therapies, individuals should be evaluated by a licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) to obtain a proper diagnosis. Alternative or Complementary Medicine is meant to complement traditional therapy. Individual treatment should be a balance of alternative and traditional, integrating the two together, to provide the best possible care. When choosing a health care practitioner, check to make sure they are licensed to practice (whenever possible).

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