Joy Bauer https://joybauer.com Life is hard, food should be easy Mon, 10 Jan 2022 21:54:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.3 What Is Cholesterol, and How Does Food Affect It? https://joybauer.com/high-cholesterol/about-high-cholesterol/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=about-high-cholesterol Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:55:31 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1102 Many people diagnosed with high cholesterol can improve their health with nutrition.

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The majority of people diagnosed with high cholesterol can improve their health by following a cholesterol-busting nutrition program.

If you’re like most people, you don’t think about cholesterol until you or someone you know is told that his or her numbers are already too high. So just what is “high cholesterol,” anyway? In fact, what is cholesterol in the first place, and what makes it high or low?For starters, know that cholesterol isn’t bad — in fact, it’s essential to good health. Cholesterol is a natural fat-like substance found in the cell membranes of all animals, humans included. Cholesterol is also part of the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerves, and it is used to make vitamin D, bile, and several hormones. Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need for health, but we get extra from eating meat, poultry, and fish. (Incidentally, cholesterol is never found in plant-based foods, so “cholesterol-free!” labels on products like peanut butter are really just stating the obvious.)

To complicate matters, blood cholesterol comes in two varieties: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (commonly called bad cholesterol — remember L for LOUSY) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good cholesterol” — remember H for HERO). As the mnemonics imply, the former kind is bad for you, and you want that number to be low; the latter is good for you, and you want that number high. The bad cholesterol is one of the components of plaque, which clogs your arteries and puts you at risk for blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke. The good cholesterol, on the other hand, is like nature’s vacuum cleaner for plaque — it picks up the vessel-clogging cholesterol and carries it away to the liver, where it is disposed of in the form of bile. The ratio between the two types counts, too.

Here’s the bottom line:

LDL Cholesterol
The higher your LDL cholesterol, the greater your risk of developing life-threatening plaque. So, you want your low-density low. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the optimal level of LDL cholesterol is below 100 mg/dL. High LDL cholesterol is defined as 160 mg/dL and higher — but certainly anything above 130 is worth treating.

HDL Cholesterol
The higher your HDL levels, the cleaner your blood vessels will be. So, you want your high-density high. According to the American Heart Association, people with HDL of 60 mg/dL or higher have a lower risk of heart disease, whereas HDL below 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women is considered too low.

Cholesterol Ratio
Because HDL is so important to the health of blood vessels, some physicians prefer to talk about the cholesterol ratio — your total cholesterol divided by your HDL cholesterol. For example, if your total cholesterol number is 250 and your HDL is 50, your ratio is 250/50 or 5. People are urged to aim for a ratio of 5 or less, but a ratio of 3.5 or lower is considered optimal.

How to Control Cholesterol
High LDL cholesterol can be caused by several factors — some you can change, and some you can’t. Heredity can play a big part: Some people can have a perfect heart-healthy lifestyle, and still have skyrocketing LDL cholesterol because their bodies naturally make too much of it. For these folks, medication is often the only way to bring down their number. However, for the vast majority of people diagnosed with high cholesterol, you can improve your profile by taking these three steps:

  • If you are overweight, focus on losing weight. Research has shown that losing just ten pounds can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5 to 8 percent.
  • Become more physically active. Even moderate exercise can help improve your cholesterol, as well as triglycerides and blood pressure.
  • Follow my cholesterol-busting nutrition program.

Now that you know the basics about cholesterol, it’s time to start changing your eating habits!
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NEXT: Using Food to Lower Your Cholesterol

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Using Food to Lower High Cholesterol https://joybauer.com/high-cholesterol/using-food-to-lower-cholesterol/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=using-food-to-lower-cholesterol Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:50:14 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1097 The majority of people diagnosed with high cholesterol can improve their health by following a cholesterol-busting nutrition program.

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The majority of people diagnosed with high cholesterol can improve their health by following a cholesterol-busting nutrition program.

Now that you understand Cholesterol Basics, I recommend a two-pronged approach to improving your numbers. First, you need to reduce your intake of saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol. Second, increase your consumption of some key foods that have been shown to improve heart health.

Specific foods to limit or avoid:

The top dietary recommendations for lowering cholesterol are to eliminate or at least drastically limit the foods you eat that contain saturated fats, trans fats, dietary cholesterol, and refined carbohydrates.

Saturated fats: Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods, including meats, butter, whole-milk dairy products (including yogurt, cheese, and ice cream), and poultry skin. They are also found in some high-fat plant foods, including palm oil. Numerous studies have shown that by replacing saturated fat with olive oil or nuts (monounsaturated fat), you can reduce LDL-cholesterol by significant amounts.

Trans fats: Trans fats were developed in a laboratory to improve the shelf life of processed foods — and they do. But trans fats are even more dangerous than saturated fats. Most stick margarines contain trans fats, and trans fats are found in many packaged baked goods, potato chips, snack foods, fried foods, and fast foods that use or create “hydrogenated oils.” (All food labels must list the amount of trans fats, right after the amount of saturated fats — good news for consumers.) There is no safe amount of trans fats, so try to keep them as far from your plate as possible.

Cholesterol-rich foods: Years ago, doctors used to recommend that people with heart disease avoid all high-cholesterol foods. But dietary cholesterol does not harm health as much as trans fats do. Studies on the effects of dietary cholesterol have yielded mixed results, which is not surprising — different people have different susceptibilities. Still, if you want to take a firm hand to reduce your risk factors, you may want to consider cutting down on all high-cholesterol foods, including egg yolks, shellfish, and liver and other organ meats like sweetbreads and foie gras.

Good foods to choose

Soluble fiber: Soluble fiber may help reduce cholesterol by grabbing onto cholesterol and escorting it through your digestive system and out of your body. It also may reduce the intestinal absorption of cholesterol as well. Some of the best soluble-fiber-rich foods include oatmeal, barley, lentils, brussels sprouts, peas, beans (kidney, lima, black, navy, pinto), apples, blackberries, pears, raisins, oranges, grapefruit, dates, figs, prunes, apricots, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

Omega-3 fatty acids: There was a time when heart researchers slapped the same label — “bad” — on every kind of fat. Now, we know that trans fats and certain types of saturated fat are dangerous for cardiovascular health, but omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats are actually good for your heart. Heart-healthy fish oils are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In multiple studies, people who ate diets high in omega-3s had 30 to 40 percent reductions in heart disease and fewer cases of sudden death from arrhythmia. Omega-3s seem to reduce inflammation, reduce high blood pressure, decrease triglycerides, help to make blood thinner and less sticky so it is less likely to clot, plus raise HDL cholesterol (that’s the good cholesterol). So omega-3s affect nearly every risk factor for heart disease. I recommend eating at least three servings (four-ounce portions) of one of the omega-3-rich fish every week — fish like wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, and mackerel (not king). If you cannot manage to eat that much fatty fish, incorporate omega-3-fortified eggs and additional plant-based sources like walnuts, soybeans, chia seeds, and ground flax — and consider taking a fish oil supplement.

Monounsaturated fats: Scientists discovered the benefits of monounsaturated fats, mainly found in olive oil by observing Mediterranean populations. They use olive oil more than any other form of fat and typically have low rates of coronary artery disease. Research shows it doesn’t help to just add monounsaturated fats to your diet — you need to replace some of the unhealthy fats that are already in your diet with better choices. There is evidence that substituting olive oil for saturated fat and low-quality refined carbohydrates can lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Best foods for monounsaturated fats include: olive oil and olives, canola oil, avocado, nuts (and nut butters), and seeds.

Plant sterols or stanols: Sterols and stanols are natural substances found in small amounts in the cell membranes of plants, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. They are found in relatively high amounts in pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ. Sterols and stanols have a structure similar to cholesterol, and they compete with cholesterol for access to receptors in the small intestines, effectively blocking its access. (Imagine 15 people all hoping to get a ride in their friend’s Volkswagen Beetle — not everyone is going to be riding in the car.) Research has shown that sterols and stanols have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 5 to 14 percent. You can reap these cardiovascular benefits with just 2 g of sterol/stanol per day, though you can’t get that much eating fruits and vegetables alone. Sterols and stanols have been added to certain heart-healthy spreads that taste and cook just like margarine. That said, they’re only for those with cholesterol problems, who should consume no more than the amounts recommended: two to three tablespoons per day (each tablespoon provides 1 g of sterol/stanol). You can use it on whole-grain bread, melt it on heart-healthy vegetables, or use it in cooking. I recommend trying the light versions of these spreads to save yourself 30 calories per tablespoon. If you’re not a bread eater, please don’t start just to have a vehicle for these spreads! Instead consider the plant stanol/sterol supplements.

 

When it comes to lifestyle changes that help your heart, don’t wait. Do them all. You may be able to heal yourself. But even if you do need medication to lower your cholesterol, that doesn’t diminish the good that you’re doing for yourself. Study after study has shown that the more heart-healthy living you do, the greater the benefit — so if you have high blood pressure or high triglycerides, get to work on those issues too. The good news is that many positive lifestyle changes that are good for one heart condition are also good for the others!

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A Cholesterol-Lowering Diet – Plus Statins https://joybauer.com/high-cholesterol/statin-medications-and-diet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=statin-medications-and-diet Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:43:50 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1093 Should you change your diet once your doctor prescribes statin medication?

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Should you change your cholesterol-lowering diet once your doctor prescribes statin medication?

Q: I did everything right — I saw a nutritionist, I started exercising, and I stopped smoking — but my LDL cholesterol is still high. My doctor put me on a statin medication. Is there anything I should do differently with my diet?

A: First, continue to comply with all of your doctor’s recommendations. Second, follow the heart-healthy eating suggestions listed in Cholesterol 101 and add these 6 Foods That Lower Cholesterol to your regular diet. If your cholesterol returns to normal levels, don’t stop: The change means the program is working and needs to be a permanent lifestyle change, not a temporary one-time fix.

Statins are valuable medications, but they are just one tool for keeping cholesterol under control. The nutrition and lifestyle suggestions I’m recommending can help turn your risk factors around, which will mean better health in the long run. However, some people have a genetic predisposition to make cholesterol and may still require medications in addition to lifestyle changes.

Finally, many health experts (including me) recommend that their clients who take one of the cholesterol-lowering statin medications also take a coenzyme Q10 supplement. CoQ10 is an antioxidant necessary for energy production in cells; without it, cells can’t function properly. Our bodies usually make sufficient CoQ10 to keep us healthy, but statin medications interfere with that (statins work by inhibiting the mechanism that allows the liver to make cholesterol, but they also slow the body’s production of CoQ10). To counteract these effects, I recommend taking 100 to 200 mg of CoQ10 once a day in a soft-gel formulation. Although most people can take CoQ10 safely and without side effects, it is always a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking any supplement.


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How to Raise Cholesterol Numbers https://joybauer.com/high-cholesterol/improving-your-hdl-cholesterol/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=improving-your-hdl-cholesterol Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:38:38 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1087 What foods and supplements are best for raising your level of HDL ("good") cholesterol?

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What foods and supplements are best for raising your level of “good” cholesterol?

Q: I had blood tests done recently. My LDL cholesterol is normal, my triglycerides are normal, but my HDL cholesterol is abnormally low. Is there anything I can do to improve my HDL?

A: Some people have a genetic tendency for low HDL, even when all their other cardiovascular risk factors are normal. Although this might seem harmless, it can throw off your cholesterol ratio and may indicate a future risk of heart problems.One of the simplest and most effective ways to boost HDL is through exercise. I recommend you engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity most, if not all, days of the week. Also follow the diet and lifestyle recommendations in Using Food to Lower Your Cholesterol. These steps will help ensure that your blood vessels stay as healthy as possible.

In addition, I recommend taking low dosages of omega-3 fatty acids (see 4 Supplements to Consider). You may also want to consider adding extended-release formulations of niacin (such as Niaspan, which is available only by prescription) to your regimen. Extended-release niacin has been shown to raise HDL cholesterol by up to 35 percent. In addition, niacin can help lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

It is important to talk with your doctor before beginning niacin treatment. Although niacin is a powerful treatment for boosting HDL cholesterol, it can be dangerous for people with diabetes, gallbladder disease, gout, glaucoma, peptic ulcer, or impaired liver function, or who are pregnant or have had a recent heart attack. In addition, niacin can interact with other medications, and it may cause some uncomfortable side effects, including flu-like symptoms, rash, and flushing so intense that it can temporarily leave you looking sunburned (and, if you’re a woman, you may think you’re having hot flashes!). Because the side effects can be serious and need to be monitored by a physician, you should not take over-the-counter niacin supplements to treat cholesterol on your own.

Prescription niacin comes in many forms and doses and is sometimes combined with other cholesterol-lowering medications; your doctor will decide which formulation is best suited for you.


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Supplements and Cholesterol https://joybauer.com/high-cholesterol/supplements-for-cholesterol/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=supplements-for-cholesterol Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:30:51 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1082 Do supplements that claim to lower your cholesterol really work?

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Do supplements that claim to lower your cholesterol really work?

Q: There are so many reports about cholesterol-lowering supplements, especially policosanol. How can I tell what is effective and what isn’t?

A: You’re right — it seems that every time you open a magazine there’s a story about another miracle supplement. Policosanol, a sugarcane extract, is just one of the many that have been touted as a way to reduce cholesterol. However, a rigorous 2006 study showed that even 80 mg of high-quality policosanol per day didn’t have any effect on cholesterol.

This particular supplement didn’t pan out, but every once and awhile something interesting and effective comes along. My advice is to read everything you can about lowering your cholesterol, and if you see something interesting in the supplement arena, make a copy and take it to your doctor. It can’t hurt to ask a professional, and most doctors are happy when their patients are proactive about improving their health.


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