Balancing your cholesterol levels is one of the hardest parts of staying healthy. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort. Instead, the best way to control your cholesterol is to know everything about it — both how it affects your body, and how you can manage it.
Dr. Michael Skardasis and his experienced team at Optimal Performance Medicine strive to provide you with the best information so you can live life at your healthiest. Here’s what you need to know about cholesterol so you can support your body in the best way possible.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance with a waxy consistency. Your liver makes it naturally but it can also be found in certain foods that you eat. While cholesterol has a bad reputation, your body actually needs some cholesterol to construct cell membranes, hormones, and vitamins.
A basic blood screening can determine whether or not you have healthy levels of cholesterol by looking at all of the fats in your blood. Your blood reveals how many LDL, HDL, and triglycerides are present in your blood, which can say a lot about your vascular and cardiovascular health. Healthy levels of total cholesterol will fall between 125-200mg/dL.
To keep your cholesterol levels in check, you have to start with a basic knowledge of the two main types of cholesterol.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. The bad thing about this cholesterol is that it can cause a buildup of plaque in your arteries. The more narrow your arteries become, the greater your risk is for a wide range of potentially life-threatening conditions like heart attacks, blood clots, artery ruptures, angina, carotid artery disease, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease.
High levels of LDL are often the result of poor dietary habits. Saturated fats found in foods like whole milk, butter, cheese, red meat, and eggs can make your LDL levels spike. Trans fats, like the ones found in cakes, cookies, crackers, and fried foods, are also notorious for adding unhealthy amounts of LDL into your system.
Think of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol as a plumber for your arteries. Your liver produces 75% of your cholesterol and also processes and removes excess cholesterol from the foods you eat. HDL cholesterol moves through your blood vessels, picking up unnecessary cholesterol along the way, and carries it to your liver. It aids your liver in getting rid of the extra cholesterol that might have stuck around and clogged your arteries.
HDL cholesterol is in lots of foods including:
- Soy-based foods
- Leafy green vegetables
- Oats and other high-fiber foods
Ideally, you have high levels of HDL cholesterol (>60mg/dL) and low levels of LDL (<100mg/dL).
What if you have high cholesterol?
High cholesterol can be a genetic or age-related issue, but it’s most commonly caused by an unhealthy diet and poor lifestyle choices. A high-fat diet, being overweight or obese, or not getting enough exercise can all contribute to dangerous levels of cholesterol.
Unfortunately, there are no tangible signs and symptoms of high cholesterol and even young people can have it, so it’s important that you get your blood checked regularly, especially if you identify with any of the risk factors listed above.
Dr. Skardasis and his team always begin treating your high cholesterol with lifestyle and diet modifications first. Your treatment plan might include:
- Cutting out saturated and trans fats
- Replacing unhealthy fats
- Limiting high-cholesterol foods and carbohydrates
- Adding fruits, vegetables, and legumes to your diet
- Increasing or adding daily exercise
- Smoking cessation techniques
- Healthy weight-loss programs
No two people experience high cholesterol the same, so we work closely with you to create a plan that’s right for you.
If these methods don’t prove to be successful, Dr. Skardasis can prescribe some cholesterol-controlling medications with the goal of eventually weaning you off of the prescription.
Managing your cholesterol can feel like walking across a tightrope. We can help you find the right balance with our expert care and support. If you’d like more information or would like to schedule an appointment to check your cholesterol, call our office or schedule an appointment online today.