How to Lower Cholesterol (Tips from the Medic Mole)

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is often interchanged with the term fats or lipids. However, fats, also called lipids, encompass three classes. Cholesterol belongs in one of those classes.

3 Classes of Lipids

* Triglycerides
Triglycerides are the only lipids that function as the human body’s important energy source. They are also the main storage of fats (like the fat on your stomach).

* Phospholipids
Phospholipids form from triglycerides by chemical processes. The main function of this fat is to build plasma membranes. Plasma membranes provide structure and regulate individual cells in the human body.

* Steroids
Steroids possess the sterol nucleus, a chemical ring structure. Their functions help run chemical processes essential for daily living. One well known steroid is Cholesterol. The body needs small amounts to survive but too much hurts.

In general, a good advice to follow is that The American Heart Association recommends daily diet of less than 300 mg of cholesterol. Why is too much cholesterol bad? How can we prevent it? These sorts of questions fuels research to keep the body healthy. Luckily, we have answers. Keep on reading!

LDL, HDL and Cholesterol

HDL and LDL play important roles in regulating lipids. Their function serves to transport fats through the blood. Fats alone cannot move in the body.

LDL (Low-density Lipoprotein) carries cholesterol into the body. Some cholesterol helps create hormones and support human cells. However, an excess of cholesterol is bad. The body stores excess cholesterol in the lining of blood vessels. Eventually, fatty plaque builds and artery disease may result.

HDL (High-density Lipoprotein) participates in reverse cholesterol transport. It destroys and rids the body of unused cholesterol. The result is that HDL helps reduce fatty plaque in blood vessel linings and lowers disease risk. Health advisors recommend a desirable blood level of HDL of over 60 mg/dL.

* Desirable Levels

Total Cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dL
LDL Cholesterol Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL Cholesterol Over than 60 mg/dL

* Undesirable Levels

Total Cholesterol 200 and over mg/dL
LDL Cholesterol 160 and over mg/dL
HDL Cholesterol Less than 59 mg/dL

Lipid Diseases

The body strives for balance in all aspects of nutrition and health; cholesterol levels are one important aspect to focus on. If the body suffers unbalances of certain substances, disease may result. The following are several diseases often associated with unnatural cholesterol levels.

The result of fatty plaque in blood vessels in body and/or the heart. Plaques may eventually block blood from the heart or brain, resulting in heart attack or stroke. May pose risk for embolus (blood clot), resulting in tissue death or damage.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
An impairment of the pumping ability of the heart by depriving the heart of oxygen and nutrients; often caused by atherosclerosis. May eventually damage the heart and constitute a heart attack.

Abnormal excess or deficient levels of lipoproteins (LDL/HDL); often influenced by genetic and/or dietary factors.

* High LDL levels
Strongly indicate atherosclerosis and/or CAD
Result from High intake of cholesterol and fats
Increased role in creating fats
Genetic factors may increase LDL accumulation

* Low HDL levels
Strongly indicate CAD
Less protection against Atherosclerosis

General Term for excess lipids (LDL, cholesterol) in the blood. Hypolipidemia is a term for deficient lipids (less than 160 mg/dL). Both are forms of dyslipidemia.

A type of hyperlipidemia; elevated blood cholesterol
(total). Cholesterol of 200-239 mg/dL indicates border
line high risk of disease. Over 239 mg/dL is high risk.

Signs and Symptoms
Most people with dyslipidemia do not seek medical intervention; the first few years are asymptomatic. Medical professions recommend that people with or without risk see their health care provider at least once every five years. This helps prevent future complications such as high blood pressure, chest, abdominal or leg pain, dizziness, heart attack, stroke and death.

Treatment of lipid disorders consist of life-style changes; not medical interventions. If optimal life-style changes yield no results or improvements, then medical interventions may be necessary. Medical interventions are used as a last resort of treatment.

Life Style Changes

* Monitor blood lipid levels at least once every five year; more monitoring may be necessary for those at genetic and/or environmental risk. For blood lipid levels see page 2: Blood Work. Lipid monitoring helps prevent future complications.

* Maintain a healthy weight; lose weight at a steady 1-2 pounds per week if overweight to healthy weight. Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight reduces the chance of fats sticking to blood vessels.

* Implement a medically supervised exercise plan. 150-300 moderate physical activity a week (such as walking or yoga) helps obtain desirable lipid levels. If time is an issue, activity as little as 15 minutes daily can help.

* Reduce dietary saturated and trans-fat. Intake should be less than 30% of total calorie intake. Also reduce dietary cholesterol level below 300 mg.
Why reduce both fat and cholesterol? The body reacts to low cholesterol intake by making more cholesterol when fats are present; lowering saturated and trans-fat intake prohibits manufacture.

* Increase soluble fiber (found in fruits, vegetable, and whole grain) and plant sterols/stanols (whole grains, olive oil; sometimes in fortified foods). Both compete against cholesterol for absorption in the body. Less cholesterol intake and absorption lowers LDL levels.

* Increased omega three fatty acids (found in some fish, plant oil and walnuts) modestly raise HDL levels.

* Reduce/Eliminate tobacco; use increases risk for lipid disease. Consume no or moderate alcohol. Moderate alcohol intake modestly increases HDL levels.

Medical Intervention

Despite life-style changes, some cannot exert control of their cholesterol levels. Health care providers may use medication as a last resort for lipid control. Some well-known drugs are listed below. Note; Pharmacotherapy is a research field; new medications and improvements happen more than once a year!

1. Statins
* Produce 20-40% drop of LDL levels and modest increase in HDL levels. Most drug names end with “Statin” (Atorvastatin, lovastatin, etc). Most statins are MHG-CoA Reductase Inhibitors. They help inhibit cholesterol manufacture; the effect is not permanent so patients need to retake the medication as recommended.

* Common Side effects: Headache, abdominal cramping, rash, itching, indigestion, or muscle pain.

2. Bile Acid Resins
* Binds high amounts of cholesterol in the digestion process and prevents absorption. Acts similar to statins in reducing LDL levels by 20%. Sometimes used with statins for sufficient cholesterol lowering response. They are not absorbed and may bind to other drugs.

* Common Side Effects: Constipation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, or indigestion.

3. Fibric Acid Agents
* Often has “fibrate” in the name and sometimes used with statins for sufficient cholesterol or triglyceride lowering response. Has a preferred use to lower high triglyceride levels (another type of fat) and VLDL levels (a third type of lipoprotein used to create LDL).

* Common Side Effects: Abdominal pain, muscle pain, flu-like syndrome, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, muscle pain, rash, or weakness.

4. Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors
* Ezetimibe
Modest reduction of 20% LDL levels. Adding Statin reduces LDL by an addition 15-20%. Works by blocking cholesterol absorption.
Side Effects: Fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or joint pain.

* Niacin
Also known as Nicotinic Acid, a vitamin. Used limited.
Side Effects: Flushing, itching, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, or headache.

5. Other Lipid Drugs
* The drugs below are aimed to directly increase HDL levels. Their safety is currently under evaluation.

* Recombinant Apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-I)mimetics
Cholesterol transferase protein inhibitors

If drugs help people control their cholesterol better, why not use that as primary treatment than life-style changes treatment?

Danger! Some risk associates with taking medication, which is why most professionals use it as a last resort. Some people are allergic to medications that could result to death. Others may have lasting harmful effects, such as muscle trauma, kidney failure, and irregular heart patterns. Professionals want their patient to be as healthy as possible; which is why life-changes fare better than risking a chance for a damaged body from medication.

Herbal/Alternative Treatments

The FDA cannot fully regulate treatments presented by over the counter herbal treatment. Although some treatments claim to have the answer to lipid disorders, there is little truth. Advertisers can put anything on the label and work though FDA laws and regulations to make consumers believe their product.

The health care industry would use herbal/alternative treatment in health care clinics all over the world if the advertisement proved true. However, most of the time, alternative products cannot support a respective study.

A person should speak with their health care provider before starting herbal or alternative treatment. The provider will verify the claim and explain whether it hurts or helps the condition that the patient is in.
If there are questions or an experiment one wants to try with an alternative treatment, ask about it. Safety, above all, comes first.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion, cholesterol is an important part of the human body. Although cholesterol has a bad rap with the population, it is necessary for human body functions. There is a fine line of balance of cholesterol; an intake of below 300 and over 160 mg per day. Some people are predisposed genetically and environmentally to have dyslipidemia, or lipid disorder. There are several different types of disorders; the most common one is hypercholesterolemia.

Hypercholesterolemia and other lipid disorders are silent; it takes years for signs and symptoms to develop. When they develop, they hit hard with chest pain, abdominal discomfort, and at the worse end, stroke, heart attack and even death. It is best to prevent the disease as early as possible. A good way to help high cholesterol is to have check-ups every five years or more with a health care provider and to speak about the concern of high lipid levels.

It is best to have life-style changes and take on healthy habits such as eating right or exercising. There are several other life-style changes that can help modify LDL, HDL and cholesterol levels to their optimal number. It takes self-control and motivation, but the human body profits and prevents signs and symptoms in the future. It is understandable that there will be failure some days; that’s okay! Keep working at it and understand that human nature always change.

If life-style changes cannot help lipid levels to a sufficient number, then medical providers may recommend medications. Medications should always be used as a last resort because they carry risk. However, statins, bile-acid resins, and other well-known drugs supported treatment and helped lower cholesterol numbers of millions of patients. Right now, there are still studies undergoing the task of finding new and better medications and treatments for less side effects and better therapy.

There are drug companies out there that claim that their product is better than what the health care provides; beware of such claims! Although herbal and alternative treatments may help, it is better to ask a health-care provider to see if the claims are valid or not. Lastly, treatment of high cholesterol starts with you! With hard work and constant monitoring, cholesterol levels should maintain better and allow you to have a future better quality of life.

Adams, Holland, Urban. (2011). Pharmacology for Nurses: A Pathophysiologic Approach 3rd Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Heart. (2012). How can I lower High Cholesterol. American Heart Association. Retrieved from ic/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_30 0460.pdfAmerican Heart Association
National Cholesterol Education Program. (2001). Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. Retrieved From: terol/atp3xsum.pdf
Smith, Wardlaw. (2013). Contemporary Nutrition Ninth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Sue E. Heuther, Kathryn L. McCance. (2012). Understanding Pathophysiology: Fifth Edition. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc.
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replied April 30th, 2013
A low-cholesterol diet is one of the surest ways to improve heart health. In fact, studies show you can slash your bad cholesterol by as much as 10% to 20% by giving your diet a makeover. The secret? Follow a diet rich in healthy fats like vegetable oils and fish. And avoid foods high in saturated fats and trans fats.

Here are some tips which helps you to maintain your cholesterol normal.

1.Use of Garlic

Garlic has been used for centuries to promote good health. Research shows that members of the onion family, such as garlic, spring onions and other onions, can be used to lower cholesterol and protect the heart. Use garlic liberally in cooking and on fresh salads.

Researchers believe that the high garlic content of the so-called Mediterranean diet is one of the factors that make this diet so heart-friendly.

2.Use of Whole or unprocessed grains

All unprocessed grains and cereals, and the foods produced from unmilled flour, are rich in B vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble), but low in fat and cholesterol.

Grains and cereals made of unprocessed wheat (wholewheat and seed bread, crackers, high-bran cereals) help to ensure regularity because they have a high insoluble fibre content. On the other hand, oats and oat bran have a high soluble fibre content which can actively lower blood cholesterol levels.

3.Use Fish

Researchers have discovered that people who eat fish three or more times a week are less likely to suffer from heart disease and high blood pressure. This is primarily due to the high omega-3 fatty acid content of fish.

The best fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout and sardines, but eating any type of fish will benefit your heart.

4.Antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables

All fruits and vegetables can help to lower cholesterol and protect the heart. Two groups are particularly useful, namely those fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C, or rich in beta-carotene.
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replied May 2nd, 2013
I believe the natural way is the best. Going on drugs for prolong period has side effects that is not well understood. For example, statin has been reported to cause memory loss and diabetes over a long run. This was reported on Reuters.
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