High cholesterol is a rising concern in all over world. Once thought to be a condition of middle and old age, it was recently found that approximately 1 in 5 teens has cholesterol levels that raise the risk for heart disease.
What causes high cholesterol?
The main causes of high cholesterol relate to your lifestyle and include:
Diet: A diet high in saturated and trans fats causes your bad cholesterol level to rise
Physical inactivity: Regular exercise helps you lose weight, lower striglycerides, and raises HDL (good ) cholesterol
Smoking: Cigarette smoking raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol
Overweight and obesity: Being overweight or obese tends to increase your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol. Having fat in the belly area (a waistline above 35 inches) is also linked to high cholesterol and triglycerides.
Other factors outside of your control that affect cholesterol levels are:
Older age: As you get older, your levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol rise
Heredity: High cholesterol can run in families. About 1 in 500 Americans have a type of inherited high cholesterol called familialhypercholesterolemia. This leads to very high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and a very high risk of having a heart attack at a young age.
How does diet affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels?
Eating too much saturated fat and trans fats increases your bad cholesterol levels.Saturated fats are found mainly in meat and dairy products. Trans fats are made through a chemical process called hydrogenation, which essentially turns healthier fats into unhealthy ones. Trans fats are found in fried foods, some margarines, baked goods (e.g., cookies and doughnuts), and snack foods. Since January 2006, trans fats are listed on food labels; foods that list “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” contain trans fats.
Your triglycerides rise when you overeat or drink too much alcohol; the excess calories are converted into triglycerides to be stored as fat in the body. Some research suggests that a very high carbohydrate diet (more than 60% of total daily calories) may cause your triglyceride level to go up and your HDL (good) cholesterol to fall. This does not seem to happen if the high-carb diet is also rich in fiber and monounsaturated fat (e.g., olive and sunflower oils) or part of a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise.
How is high cholesterol treated?
High cholesterol is always first treated with diet and exercise. If you are concerned about developing high cholesterol, you should follow a heart healthy diet that limits saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol intake. If you already have heart disease or high cholesterol, you should try the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, which cuts saturated fat and cholesterol even more. The American Heart Association recommends that if you have a high level of bad cholesterol, you should get less than 7% of your daily calorie intake from saturated fats and consume less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day. It is also important to exercise at least 30 minutes on most, preferably all, days of the week. Exercise aids weight loss, helps lower your triglycerides, and boosts your HDL (good) cholesterol. Losing weight lowers levels of total and bad cholesterol and triglycerides. If you smoke, you should stop.
Does lowering my cholesterol reduce my risk for heart disease?
Yes. Studies show that lowering high levels of total and bad cholesterol reduces a woman’s risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease. Lowering triglycerides and raising levels of good cholesterol also seems to reduce your risk.It is difficult to tease out whether changes in triglycerides and good cholesterol alone are beneficial or if other improvements in risk factors that tend to occur at the same time, including weight loss and reductions in total and bad cholesterol, are really responsible.