Cholesterol is a wax-like fatty substance (lipid) found in the cell membranes of all body tissues. About 75 percent of it is synthesized by the body, with the rest being of dietary origin. Despite cholesterol’s bad reputation, it is actually necessary for proper body function, and plays a central role in many biochemical processes including production of sex hormones. But at the same time, excessively high levels of cholesterol – referred to as hypercholesterolemia – pose a threat to good health.
There are two major forms of cholesterol high-density Lipoproteins (HDLs), which are often referred to as “good cholesterol”, carry cholesterol from the blood to the liver for elimination from the body. Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), or “bad cholesterol”, carry cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body. You total cholesterol considers both LDL and HDL levels, because they are both important for good health. When there are high levels of LDLs in the blood- and especially when this is accompanied by low levels of HDLs – cholesterol can be deposited on the walls of the arteries, causing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This condition, in turn, is the underlying cause of strokes, heart attacks, and most cardiovascular disease in general.
These disorders are also linked to high triglyceride levels. This refers to the form that fat takes when it is being stored for energy in your body. Triglycerides, like cholesterol, are vital for human life but unhealthy if at too high a level. Your doctor will be able to test your HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels by taking a simple blood test. (You may need to fast the day of the test. Your doctor will provide you with details).
Dietary changes are key to lowering both cholesterol and triglycerides. Red meat and other foods high in saturated fats should eaten sparingly (or, preferably, eliminated), while heart-healthy fish, vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts should be included in greater amounts. Exercise is also very important for achieving and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Additionally, certain nutrients can help lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, and restore heart health.
Causes of High Cholesterol
• Amino acid deficiency
• Biotin deficiency
• Carnitine deficiency
• Deficiency of hormones such as DHEA, estrogen, or testosterone
• Deficiency of natural antioxidants such as beta-carotene or selenium
• Essential fatty acid deficiency
• Excess dietary starch
• Excess dietary sugar
• Fiber deficiency
• Food allergies
• Hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or processed fats (lard, margarine, palm oil, shortening)
• Increased tissue damage due to infection, radiation, or oxidative activity (free radical production)
• Liver dysfunction
• Vitamin C deficiency
Causes of Low Cholesterol
• Adrenal stress
• Cholesterol-lowering drugs
• Chronic hepatitis
• Essential fatty acid deficiency
• Excessive exercise
• Immune decline
• Low-fat diets
• Manganese deficiency
• Psychological stress
• Recreational drugs such as marijuana or cocaine
Supplements that decrease cholesterol levels
• Carnitine – L-carnitine is most effective.
• Chromium – Decreases total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
• Coenzyme Q10 – Increases HDL (good) cholesterol and decreases platelet stickiness. May reduce the effects of blood thinners.
• Fiber, soluble – Decreases total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Choose a fiber supplement with no added sugar. Supplement with several glasses of water.
• Garlic (supplements or cloves) – Decreases triglycerides and decreases total cholesterol.
• Gugulipid – Decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol, increases HDL (good) cholesterol, and decreases platelet stickiness.
• Magnesium – Decreases total cholesterol, decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol, increases HDL (good) cholesterol, decreases triglycerides, and decreases platelet stickiness. Do not take if you have problems with your kidneys. Discontinue use if you experience diarrhea or abdominal pain.
• Niacin, non-extended release – Decreases total cholesterol, decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol, increases HDL (good) cholesterol, and decreases triglycerides. Do not drink alcohol or hot drinks within one hour of taking niacin.
• Pantethine – decreases total cholesterol, decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol, increases HDL (good) cholesterol, decreases triglycerides.
• Policosanol – Increases HDL (good) cholesterol, lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, and decreases platelet stickiness. Discuss use with doctor if taking an anticoagulant.
• Red yeast rice – Take 200 mg of Coenzyme Q10 with red yeast rice, which lowers total cholesterol. Use with caution if you have liver disease because it may elevate liver enzymes.
• Soy – Decreases total cholesterol, decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol, and decreases triglycerides. Consuming too much soy may be unhealthy, so eating soy foods is healthier than taking soy supplements.
• Tocotrienols – Modifies HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme that can decrease the rate at which your body makes cholesterol; decreases plaque formation in arteries, and reduces lipoprotein plasma levels. Consult healthcare provider first if you are taking a blood thinner.
Causes of High Triglyceride Levels
Triglycerides are fat cells that are stored in your body and later transferred into energy. Yet high levels of triglycerides have been strongly linked to coronary heart disease. The list below describes factors and foods that can cause your triglyceride levels to rise.
Alcohol, Birth control pills or any other progestin-containing drug, Caffeine, Cakes, cookies, and candies, Diuretics, Fruit juice, Genetics, High fat diet, Lack of physical activity, Nicotine, Skipping an early meal and compensating in the evening, Soft drinks, Stress, Too many carbohydrates, Too much fruit, White bread, White flour and White sugar.