Guide to Cholesterol

Ah, the mysteries of cholesterol—we know it is "bad, " but then we hear that some of it might be "good . " We know keeping it in check is important for our heart health, but what exactly are we trying to do? What does it mean to help raise "good" cholesterol and lower "bad" cholesterol? First of all, let’s look at the three types of blood lipids we need to monitor for our heart health: HDL , LDL , and Triglycerides

HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is the "good" cholesterol. It helps keep blood vessels nice and clean, and free of deposits. HDL should be kept as high as possible to ensure heart health, at least over 40 milligrams and ideally over 60 milligrams. LDL, or "bad" cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein, that leaves fatty deposits on the walls of blood vessels. Essentially, HDL cleans up LDL’s mess. LDL should ideally be below 100 milligrams. HDL and LDL together should not be above 200.

Triglycerides are another group of fats in the blood stream that need to be carefully measured. They are a combination of three fatty acids that are smaller than cholesterol, but can also line the blood vessels with fatty deposits. Triglycerides should be kept at a level below 150 milligrams, and ideally under 100 milligrams.

So what can you do? A lot it turns out. While our gender, age and genetics may be three determining factors we can’t control, we can do a lot about our diets, body weight, level of physical activity, and smoking. The last four factors, that are controllable through lifestyle, can have as much of an effect as the first three, which we are born with.

Supplements can also help. Antioxidants, like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Zinc help protect healthy cells by neutralizing free radicals and support overall heart health. Fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA which are found in Omega 3 fish oils, may also help break apart triglycerides in the blood, maintaining healthy triglyceride levels in the body.

Plant sterols and stanols are also proven natural cholesterol reducers. Until now these ingredients were mainly found in specialty margarines and salad dressings. More than 40 years of research on plant sterols and stanols, including more than a hundred clinical studies, have demonstrated the ability of plant sterols and stanols to reduce cholesterol levels safely and effectively. Sterols and stanols work to lower cholesterol levels by blocking LDL's absorption into the body.

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