How Can I Improve My Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance made by the liver and required by the body for the proper function of cells, nerves, and hormones.

Cholesterol travels in the lipids (fatty acids) of the blood stream, also called plaque, can build up in the walls of the arteries decreasing the flow of blood to vital areas of the body.  If plaque continues to build long term it significantly increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Normally, cholesterol is kept in balance.  But, the standard western diet which contains a large amount of hydrogenated fats and refined carbohydrates leads to an upset in this balance.  The imbalance is manifested in elevated LDL (bad cholesterol) and a low HDL (good cholesterol) which increases our risk for heart attack or stroke. Other causes include inactivity, diabetes, stress, and hypothyroidism.

As most are aware with visits to their doctor there are three lipoproteins in our blood that are important to our health, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and triglycerides.  LDL is known as the bad cholesterol because it is low in proteins and high in cholesterol.

HDL, on the other hand, is high in proteins and low in cholesterol and therefore known as good cholesterol.  Triglycerides are a separate lipid in the blood stream that provide a way for the body to store excess energy, but if they are high is another warning sign.

Cholesterol Normal Ranges

The lipid profile blood test reports the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood steam.   This is what the medical community believes the ranges should be but the most important thing to consider is the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol which should be around 2:1.

Total cholesterol

Below 200 mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above High

LDL cholesterol

Below 70 mg/dL   Ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease
Below 100 mg/dL  Ideal for people at risk of heart disease
100-129 mg/dL Near ideal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very high

HDL cholesterol

Below 40 mg/dL (men),
Below 50 mg/dL (women)
Poor
50-59 mg/dL Better
60 mg/dL and above Best

Triglycerides

Below 150 mg/dL Desirable
150-199 mg/dL Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL High
500 mg/dL and above Very high

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a triglyceride level of 100 mg/dL or lower is considered “optimal.”

Cholesterol Reducing Foods

If you want to lower cholesterol, diet is key.  Here are the top foods and nutrients that can naturally lower cholesterol:

Omega-3 fatsFoods high in omega-3 fats can help increase HDL cholesterol and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
Foods high in soluble fiber – Soluble fiber binds cholesterol in the digestive system causing it to be excreted by the body. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, sprouted nuts and seeds and other fiber rich foods.