More than 12% of American adults over the age of 20 have 240 mg/dl or higher total cholesterol levels.
At the same time, 18% have less than 40 mg/dl HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol level. Unfortunately, children are not exempt. Over 7% of those between the ages of 6 and 19 also suffer from cholesterol issues.
In the last couple of decades, clinical studies have demonstrated that cholesterol and diet play a substantial part in cardiovascular disease and heart health. Recent statistics suggest that the link between cholesterol and heart disease is a lot more complicated than initially believed.
Here, we will take a closer look at what research has to say about cholesterol and heart problems, especially when paired with healthy eating patterns.
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Cholesterol and Heart Disease – How Are They Connected?
Elevated cholesterol is linked to higher heart disease risk, while reduced cholesterol is linked with decreased heart disease risk in the younger population.
To understand the connection between cholesterol and heart disease, you have to start with the basics. Cholesterol is responsible for helping numerous functions in the human body. It is one of the many types of fats (a lipid) crucial for the human system.
It is a part protein and part lipid. The system needs cholesterol to insulate the nerves, build new cells, and create hormones naturally. When the body is working correctly, the liver will produce all the cholesterol the organs need.
However, when people take additional cholesterol from foods such as meat, eggs, milk, etc., they end up with excess cholesterol in their system. With high cholesterol comes a more significant risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
That additional cholesterol ends up in the blood and stacks in the artery walls, resulting in a condition known as atherosclerosis (a type of heart disease). This heart disease forces the arteries to become narrower, which blocks blood flow and affects the heart muscle.
Without enough blood flow and oxygen, the body experiences uncomfortable chest pain. If a doctor says you are experiencing a lipid disorder, it means you have increased LDL in the blood. The high lipid level could result from diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, stress, and alcoholism.
But, when circulation is completely blocked, it could cause a heart attack. That’s what makes the increased LDL level a lifelong risk factor. It is imperative that you manage both the blood cholesterol and lipid level.
This fat waxy-like substance can be found in every cell in the human body. A cholesterol test can help you monitor your current health state.
To understand cholesterol, you have to familiarize yourself with the various types that appear on a lipoprotein panel. With a regular blood test, you can measure the cholesterol in the system. These types include:
- LDL (bad cholesterol) – This number, also known as the low-density lipoprotein, depicts the amount of chthat’srol that’s blocking the arteries.
- HDL (good cholesterol) – It is useful for removing cholesterol blockages from the arteries.
- Non-HDL – With the non HDL cholesterol, you will assess the total cholesterol minus the HDL cholesterol. In other words, the non HDL cholesterol level features all the bad cholesterol types.
- Total cholesterol – A lipoprotein panel will assess the LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels to help develop a total cholesterol level.
What Do Experts Have to Say?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people need to limit the dietary cholesterol intake to a maximum of 300mg a day. This can create an impeccable blood cholesterol level in the system, which may help reduce the possibility of heart disease.
Although the newest Dietary Gdon’tines don’t mention a particular cholesterol limit, they too advise people to consume a minimum amount of cholesterol from their diets.
Experts have noted, there is substantial evidence that enough vitamins, minerals, and healthy nutrients can lessen the possibility of heart disease in adults. It can stabilize the high blood cholesterol and reduce the risk for a dangerous cardiovascular event.
A 2016 Cambridge research also showed the exact same results. Based on their 8-week research, increased LDL is a clear risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Dietary fatty acids are also involved in the risk of developing heart disease.
In this case, implementing some dietary changes (like swapping some unhealthy foods with a better-quality alternative) can decrease the cholesterol and may lessen the probability of heart disease. But, there are no reports on the impact of cholesterol on heart failure.
The Cooper Institute took a more detailed approach in studying the HDL and LDL particle size to determine the risk of coronary heart disease. Statistics show 100 million people have abnormal LDL and HDL levels. But, those with higher LDL are more vulnerable to coronary artery disease.
Those who already have the disease may also be at risk of myocardial infarction and stroke, issued the National Institutes of Health. With higher variability in lipid levels comes a series of adverse effects, some of which can affect mortality rates.
On the other hand
However, a recent controversial report has raised a couple of questions. Experts believe there is no connection between LDL and heart disease. These statistics are built upon a 2016 review published by the NHS.
The goal of the research was to collect all the evidence from previous observational reports on the impact of LDL on the mortality rates in patients 60 years or older. According to previous reports, having elevated and unstable LDL cholesterol levels meant that people have a bigger risk of dying from heart disease.
Scientists analyzed 28 different studies to evaluate the link between cholesterol and death. Twelve of those reports were found to have a clear connection between mortality and LDL. But, 16 proved the opposite. They showed that a decreased LDL was associated with an increased mortality risk, which is entirely different from what was believed before.
Experts concluded that the increased LDL-C level is inversely linked to mortality in the majority of patients 60 years or older. They believe these reports contradict the typical cholesterol hypothesis (that LDL cholesterol can cause fatty build-up and affect the arteries).
They believe elderly patients with elevated LDL to have the exact lifespan as those with reduced LDL. Therefore, they suggest a re-evaluation of the cholesterol recommended guidelines.
Although this systematic review has potential, a lot of questions and facts have been missed out. For example, they only studied older adults; a limited literature data didn’t cover statin use.
Statin therapy is known for reducing cholesterol. But, these drugs are not just useful for the cholesterol level. A statin drug can also decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, blood vessel plaques, and some blood clots. So studying statin use should be another important factor to cover.
Cholesterol in Diet
Based on a 2013-2014 survey, around 39% of American adults consume over 300mg of dietary cholesterol daily. From those evaluated, 28% were women and 46% men.
Cholesterol moves through the blood on lipoproteins. That’s why experts suggest heart-healthy food, medicine, and physical activity to keep that LDL in check. With proper weight management techniques, anyone can reduce their risk of heart disease.
But, certain dietary patterns are more effective. According to AHA Journals, recent reports have raised a couple of questions about the role of cholesterol in heart disease. Researchers have studied the cholesterol found in foods with lipoproteins, blood lipids, and cardiovascular risk.
They suggest that people implement healthy dietary patterns, such as:
- DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)
- Mediterranean style diets
They are packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals but are low in cholesterol. By emphasizing veggies, fruits, low-fat, whole grains, and fat-free products, people can control their total cholesterol levels and enjoy optimal cardiovascular health.
In other words, the better the diet, the stronger the heart becomes.
Are There Any Risk Factors for Heart Disease I Should Know About?
Multiple health conditions can affect your heart state. That includes age, genes, and lifestyle choices. Another important factor is the triglycerides. Both cholesterol and triglycerides are lipids or types of fat in the blood.
The cholesterol builds up the hormones and cells, while the triglyceride is there to ensure proper alcohol metabolism and sufficient energy for normal cell function. When the triglyceride level is abnormally high, it can harden the artery wall and make the body vulnerable to heart conditions.
Around 47% of Americans experience one of the three key factors:
- Elevated cholesterol
- Unstable blood pressure
Take diabetes, for example. Cholesterol and diabetes go hand in hand. With high cholesterol levels, you increase the likelihood of developing diabetes. And diabetes will only worsen your cholesterol. It will reduce HDL and increase LDL cholesterol. Therefore, you will need to learn how to manage this metabolic disease to live a healthy life.
Some health conditions can’t be controlled, for instance, hereditary issues (like familial hypercholesterolemia) or old age. However, there are certain approaches you can take to ensure stable blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Quitting smoking can help. Since cigarettes increase the heart rate and tighten the bigger arteries, it can also result in irregular heart rhythm. In the long run, it will affect the blood pressure and make you prone to stroke. This is definitely something you want to avoid if you are vulnerable to heart problems or atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
But cholesterol fluctuations can also appear due to preeclampsia, obesity, physical inactivity, and prediabetes.
How to Naturally Decrease Cholesterol?
Medications are the first line of treatment in patients with very high cholesterol levels. But, if you prefer a healthier and more natural approach, you can do that too.
The best time to start managing the LDL level and total cholesterol is not later in life (when atherosclerosis has already affected the system), but when you are younger. The sooner you implement healthy foods, the better the chances of reversing heart disease and preventing a heart attack.
To do that, you can try:
- Eating heart-friendly foods
- Exercising a couple of days a week
- Managing the excess weight
- Limiting the alcohol intake
Each of these options has a major role to play in avoiding heart attack and serious heart disease. Here is how you can use them to manage high cholesterol.
Eating Heart-Friendly Foods
Meals that are packed in omega-3 fatty acids are an ideal approach for managing blood pressure. The fatty acid can keep the heart in tip-top shape. They can benefit the HDL level and promote a healthy blood flow.
Options like herring, mackerel, salmon, and walnuts are rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are perfect for the heart. can’t you can’t achieve those results if your diet is full of saturated fats. Full-fat dairy meals increase the total cholesterol level. Therefore, reducing saturated fat consumption can also control LDL cholesterol and keep heart disease in check.
Experts suggest that you add soluble fiber to your meal plan as well. It can decrease the cholesterol absorption rate in the bloodstream. So, foods such as apples, kidney beans, and oatmeal can help you achieve those results.
Exercising a Couple of Days a Week
Physical activity is a necessity when you want to prevent a heart attack. Not only will it increase the HDL, but it will also supply the body with energy and speed up the metabolism.
Clinical reports show that moderate aerobic exercises are an excellent starting point, especially for people who want to break their sedentary lifestyle. But, the more you focus on that activity, the better the results.
Experts suggest that you move to resistance training when you need more effective results. It leaves a positive impact on the body and offers plenty of benefits for the psychological and physiological systems.
So, make sure to dedicate a minimum of 30 min to sports activities five times a week. Or 20min, three times a week if you are doing more intensive exercises. Choose the sport or exercise you prefer and find the motivation to get your health back on track.
Managing the Excess Weight
When the body struggles with carrying those extra pounds, the cholesterol constantly increases. If you pair that with sugar, snacks, and unhealthy beverages, the health problems only keep piling up.
Overweight individuals are prone to metabolic disease (diabetes type 2), kidney disease, pregnancy issues, and more.
Some even experience a sleep disease, like sleep apnea, which makes it difficult to function. Their liver also tends to suffer, and fatty liver disease can start to form. Their bones become fragile and vulnerable to osteoarthritis That’se.
That’s why it is critical to find a way to manage weight. Healthy meals and exercise can help you achieve the results you are hoping for. All it takes is some dedication and persistence. In time, you will reap the benefits.
Limiting the Alcohol Intake
Smoking is not the only bad habit that will affect cholesterol. Drinking can do that, as well. Moderate ethanol consumption can increase HDL cholesterol levels. But, alcohol abuse will leave a drastic impact on LDL cholesterol.
This habit can cause liver disease, weaken the immune system, and result in memory problems. It can also affect the throat and breasts and lead to a serious disease, like cathat’sBut that’s not all. Some people experience a drastic shift in their mental health state because of their heavy drinking.
They develop a dependence or addiction. This creates a severe social problem, affects their productivity and ability to function.
However, it is possible to avoid the development of chronic disease or serious health issues. If you love alcohol, enjoy it in moderation. For women, the ideal intake would be one drink a day, and for men, two drinks a day. Anything more than that can result in heart attack, increased blood pressure, and disease.
Stable cholesterol is a fundamental component of a healthy body. It is used to measure the state of your cardiovascular health. With normal cholesterol, your body will function normally and create strong cell membranes and hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to. That’s why the information listed here can come in handy. It will help you clear up any misunderstandings and misconceptions about the cholesterol in your system and show you how to lead a healthy life.
Luckily, with healthy foods, proper dietary patterns, and exercise, you can take complete control of your overall health. Just work on your dangerous habits, like drinking and smoking, and you will have a much easier time managing your cholesterol. Remember, healthy long-term strategies are a full-proof method for living a healthier and longer life.