Many people hear about good or HDL and bad or LDL cholesterol, and they wonder how it can be both good and bad at the same time.
The LDL cholesterol is the stuff that builds up along the walls of your arteries and causes problems, but the HDL is the body’s natural garbage disposal system that gets rid of the LDL proteins. You need to have both types of cholesterol in balance if you want to stay healthy and heart problem-free.
Balancing your cholesterol levels is possible, but it is going to take some effort on your part. No, sitting down and watching TV doesn’t count as effort.
Remember that your good cholesterol needs to be at least above 40 milligrams per deciliter of blood in order for you to remain healthy, while your bad cholesterol needs to be below 130 milligrams per deciliter of blood to have a normal cholesterol level.
Healthy cholesterol levels can be attained, but you are going to have to work at it.
1. Stop Smoking
Many people with high cholesterol never even think of their smoking as being one of the main causes of their problems, but the truth of the matter is that smoking actually reduces the HDL in your blood.
This means that your body can’t take out the trash of the LDL cholesterol as effectively, and it gives the bad cholesterol free rein to wreak havoc on your body. In order to keep good cholesterol levels in your body, put down that cigarette and walk away from it for good.
2. Drink Up
People are surprised when their doctor tells them to have a drink in order to balance out their different cholesterols, but the truth is that a bit of alcohol can be good for your health in many ways (a bit means a glass or two, not a bottle or two).
Drinking alcohol – particularly wine – helps to improve your heart health, increase blood flow, and up your HDL levels. This means that drinking the occasional glass of something strong can help to kick your LDL cholesterol in the teeth, so drinking some alcohol (in moderation) will be a great ally in your fight against cholesterol (and sobriety).
3. Fight Trans Fats
Trans fats are found in pretty much everything processed and artificial, as well as in many foods made from animal products. They are also found in all sorts of cooking oils, margarines, shortening, and butter, so it is best to avoid these things as much as you can.
Try and get trans fats down to roughly 1% of your daily food intake if you are serious about reducing cholesterol, and try to avoid foods that contain high amounts of trans fats. If the package even hints at something being even slightly hydrogenated, scream like a little girl and run away yelling “The Trans Fats are attacking!!”
4. Cut Back Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are one of the main things that cause increases in LDL cholesterol levels in your body, though they do serve to increase your HDL as well. However, in order to maintain the balance between good and bad cholesterol, try and avoid saturated fats as much as possible.
The increase in good cholesterol is negligible when compared to the increase in bad cholesterol, so try and keep saturated fats to no more than 7% of the food you consume every day if you want to stay healthy, according to the American Heart Association.
5. Drop Those Pounds
Too many people around the country try and deal with their cholesterol by eating fewer foods high in cholesterol, but they do little to deal with the fact that they are pretty overweight. Those extra pounds are not only slowing you down, but they are increasing your risk of heart disease.
You can reduce the bad LDL cholesterol a good deal even by losing just 10% of your body weight, and it can help you to be much more active and enjoy life a lot more. While it will cause a decrease of HDL as well, doing exercise will be the best way to get healthy in every way.
6. Take Some Fibrates
Fibrates help to increase the levels of HDL in your body, thus helping your internal LDL garbage disposal system to function much better. By taking fibrates and increasing your body’s HDL levels to healthy levels, you can lower your LDL cholesterol levels by between 10 and 20 percent (though 10 to 15% is a more usual decrease for those that take fibrates).
Fibrates also help to lower the levels of triglycerides (the “forgotten” member of the cholesterol family), lowering your total blood cholesterol levels effectively.
7. Consume Niacin
Niacin is also known as nicotinic acid, and it is a B vitamin (B3) that is effective at lowering your LDL cholesterol levels. Lowering LDL is one of the best ways to find a balance between good and bad cholesterol, as the decrease of LDL means that the levels of HDL in the body can increase.
Niacin can help to not only cut down on LDL by as much as 10 to 15 percent but can increase levels of HDL anywhere between 15 and 35 percent. Many people fail to obtain the many benefits of Niacin, simply because the side effects include flushing and warmth that freaks people out.
8. Get Some Bile Acid Sequestrants
Bile acid sequestrants help to lower the levels of the LDL cholesterol in the body by as much as 20%, and they are usually prescribed with statins (see below) to increase the effectiveness of both medications.
These bile acid sequestrants prevent the stomach from absorbing the bile acid, hence the word “sequester” in the name of the medication. Cholesterol is the result of bile acids, thus preventing the body from absorbing the bile acids ensures that healthy cholesterol levels are maintained.
9. Inhibit Cholesterol Absorption
Statins (see below) have certain side effects that people cannot stomach (pun intended), and cholesterol absorption inhibitors are prescribed by doctors as an alternative. These cholesterol absorption inhibitors are very effective in helping to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the body, cutting them down by as much as 20 percent.
They can also help to increase the levels of HDL in the body, but only by around 5%. Still, the fact that they help to balance out the good and bad cholesterol for those who cannot take statins make these medications a good option.
10. Take Some Statins
A statin is very effective at fighting LDL cholesterol, and it is able to reduce the cholesterol by as much as 55% at its very highest dosage. When it is prescribed along with bile acid sequestrants, the combination of the two can reduce LDL by as much as 4 percent.
There are side effects, but they are usually only experienced by a very limited number of people. Statins also help to increase HDL levels in the body, but they are only slightly more effective at increasing HDL than the cholesterol absorption inhibitors (an increase of 5 or 10 percent).
These are a few things that you can do to balance out the good and bad cholesterol in your body, but you will find that doing these things will be very effective.
In the end, the balance has to be maintained through three things:
- A healthy diet – The foods you eat will play a large role in your health. Avoiding foods high in cholesterol will help to bring down your total blood cholesterol levels, and will increase your HDL levels while fighting off LDL cholesterol.
- Plenty of exercises – As mentioned above, doing exercise helps to purge your body of all the things that could cause heart problems. You can fight cholesterol easily by doing regular exercise, as it helps you to burn fat and lose weight.
- Living a healthy lifestyle – Living a healthy lifestyle means making healthy choices. If you want to balance your cholesterol levels, you will have to strive to live a healthy life as much as possible.
You’re the guy or girl responsible for your health, and you are the only one that can effectively fight off cholesterol.
If you don’t know how to do it (aside from the 10 tips above), check out some of the other pages on this site to find natural ways to lower LDL cholesterol, tips for reducing cholesterol with your diet, and information on pretty much everything cholesterol related.
Being informed and educated can help you to prevent problems in the long run.
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2. Drink Up.
If you’re not a drinker, I’ve read it’s better not to start if you’re doing it for heart issues.