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Cholesterol Friend or Foe?

Cholesterol is portrayed as an evil villain on television commercials and magazine ads. Actually, Cholesterol is a necessity for life. The liver is the main producer of cholesterol.

 

A function of cholesterol is to keep the cell membranes from falling apart. This soft, waxy matter is essential to form cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile that help in the digestion process.

Eighty five percent of the cholesterol floating in the blood stream is produced by the liver and adrenal glands.  Without cholesterol the body wouldn't work: it's vital to ensure the body's normal function.  It's used to insulate nerve fibers (so that nerve signals travel properly) and make hormones, which carry chemical signals around the body.

 

The coronary disease that causes heart attacks, once attributed to high cholesterol, is now considered to be caused mostly from chronic inflammation. Inflammation can occur as a result of the foods put in the mouth. Food sensitive and low grade infections can produce an inflammatory reaction that occurs in the arteries. This inflammation on the arteries acts like Velcro to catch the circulating cholesterol causing it to stick to the walls.  As the build-up of cholesterol occurs, it blocks the artery wall, eventually leading to a heart attack or stroke.

 

There are a number of ways for lowering cholesterol naturally, such as a high fiber diet.  The average American consumes 15 grams of fiber per day. If fiber is absent, up to 94% of the cholesterol and bile acids are reabsorbed and recycled. The recommended dietary fiber intake is between 25-40 grams per day. Beans and legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables and gluten free whole grains are all good sources of fiber.

 

There are numerous nutritional supplements that have shown great promise in lowering cholesterol.  Omega III fatty acids, policosanol, guggulipids, green tea extract, plant sterols, red yeast rice, artichoke extract, niacin, pantothenic acid, and vitamin C are a sampling of nutrients that have proven to be effective in lowering total cholesterol, lowering LDL’s and raising HDL’s.

Exercise and maintaining ideal weight are key factors to good cardiovascular health. Just 30 minutes of exercise per day can increase your level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or "good" cholesterol, reduce your LDL or “bad cholesterol” and lower the total cholesterol levels.

Stress can have a detrimental effect to the body, including increasing cholesterol levels. Meditation can help lower stress levels, as can yoga. Regular exercise and adequate rest will also help to lower stress levels. The more stress the body is under, the more cholesterol the liver makes, because cholesterol is the precursor of stress hormones. 

 

Finding the right combination of these nutrients and lifestyle changes that work for you can make a huge difference in cholesterol and overall health.  Eating a Mediterranean type diet, enjoying the good fats such as olive oil , eating cold water fish like salmon or mackerel three times per week or supplementing with Omega III fatty acids are vital to the cholesterol numbers. Exercising daily and learning stress coping mechanisms can make a huge difference in not only cholesterol health, but overall health. A consult with a holistically oriented health care provider can help determine and make the appropriate recommendations on what nutrition and lifestyle changes works best for you.

This information is for educational purposes and is not intended for diagnosis or treatment.