In 2022, the leading cause of death in the United States was heart disease, taking the lives of nearly 700,000 individuals. One of the major risk factors for developing cardiovascular issues is high cholesterol, so it’s crucial to regularly measure your cholesterol levels and keep it at a low number. National Cholesterol Education Month spreads awareness on the importance of monitoring your cholesterol levels and ways to help lower it.
Our bodies require cholesterol. It’s a substance that helps several of the body’s metabolic processes, including the production of bile, hormones and vitamin D. Your liver naturally produces the needed amount of cholesterol, but you also get it from certain foods you consume.
Cholesterol is carried throughout the body by 2 key transport systems in the blood:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – carries the cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body. Cells attach to these particles and extract fat and cholesterol from them. It’s known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol because when the level in the bloodstream is high, it can form blockages that prevent blood flow to your heart.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – is known as the ‘good,’ or ‘protective,’ cholesterol since it helps remove excess cholesterol out of the cells, including cells in the arteries.
Simply put, high cholesterol is a condition in which you have too many lipids (fat) in your blood. Your body needs just the right amount of lipids in order to properly function. If you have too many lipids, your body is unable to use them all. Extra lipids build up in the arteries and eventually form plaque (fatty deposits). The plaque may go unnoticed for years, but it slowly grows bigger within your arteries.
This is what makes untreated high cholesterol dangerous, and the only way to know your cholesterol levels is through a blood test, called a lipid panel. A primary care physician at Dallas Medical Physician Group or Dallas Family Medical can safely administer the test.
There are 5 natural ways you can lower your cholesterol:
- Heart-healthy eating. Avoid eating foods that are high in trans and saturated fats. Opt for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats instead.
- Weight management. You want to have a healthy BMI. If you’re overweight, losing weight can lower your LDL.
- Physical activity. Healthy for your body and heart. Everyone should be getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Even a brisk walk will suffice!
- Managing stress. Research has shown that chronic stress can raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
- Quit smoking. Smoking harms the lungs and heart. Quitting smoking will raise your HDL cholesterol.