Cholesterol is not all bad.
Cholesterol is a type of fat which plays an important function in every cell wall. Cholesterol is used by the body to make other substances, such as hormones, which are essential to our health and well-being.
While cholesterol is found in some foods, the body also produces needed cholesterol in the liver.
High-density-lipoprotein (HDL) returns “extra” cholesterol in circulation to the liver.
Diet and lifestyle choices, as well as health conditions, can cause the cholesterol balance gets skewed and heart disease risk rises when LDL levels become too high and/or HDL levels drop too low.
This is where many patients are prescribed statin medications to lower LDL cholesterol levels back to a healthy range, reducing heart disease risk.
There was a publication not too long ago claiming no association to be found between LDL cholesterol and mortality.
This was a review of 19 studies with over 68,000 participants finding no evidence between LDL cholesterol and mortality.
I was interested to see this because it seems like we are taking it too far in our efforts to lower LDL cholesterol to lower and lower levels. Cholesterol does have a relevant role in health.
Statins are still warranted in many cases to lower LDL cholesterol
Unfortunately, the study methodology was weak and the research doesn’t hold up under closer scrutiny. There is stronger researcher supporting the connection between using statin drugs to lower LDL cholesterol for reduced heart disease risk.
Current recommendations for people at cardiovascular risk seem to be the lower the LDL cholesterol, the better.
An LDL cholesterol level below 70 mg/dL is the standard goal if you are at high risk for heart disease.
During the past 10-years there has been new research leaning towards very low LDL cholesterol levels, dropping guidelines even lower to less than 60 mg/dL. These studies are seeing the risk for heart attack and other cardiovascular events reduced further with this additional decrease in LDL cholesterol levels.
What is the right LDL cholesterol level for you?
If you are not at high risk for heart disease, aim for an LDL cholesterol of 100 mg/dL or less. It you are at risk for heart disease, discuss goal levels with your doctor.
Statins are frequently prescribed to lower LDL-cholesterol levels, but lowering levels through diet and lifestyle changes is a valid option for many individuals. It typically takes 4-6 weeks to see results. For further guidance on diet and lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol levels, access my free ecourse “How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps” here.
All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
Health Pro for HealthCentral
Here are nine easy ways to ensure you eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
1. Eat on the go.
An apple, orange, banana, and pear are all portable fruits you can eat on the go without advance prep. Fruits provide vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant enhancing the body’s response to free radicals and protecting the arteries from oxidative damage.
Shop the produce shelf for ready-made salads. Select dark green, leafy lettuce varieties, such as romaine, endive, and spinach.
Top your pizza with extra chunks of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, spinach leaves, and pineapple. Tomatoes are rich in nutrients that directly impact heart health, including potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate
Use strawberries, bananas, blueberries and other fruits to pancakes, waffles, and toast. Colorful berries are a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants.
5. Vegetable snacks.
Snack on raw baby carrots, pepper slices, cauliflower, broccoli, and celery. Cardiac physician Mark Houston recommends consuming 4 stalks of celery daily.
6. Fruit snacks.
Keep one-serving size bags of dried fruit in your car or desk for a convenient and still healthy snack. A 1/4 equal one-serving of dried fruit.
7. Pasta and omelets.
Mix in frozen or fresh vegetables with your pasta and omelets. Canned vegetables are high in sodium, while frozen or fresh vegetables usually have no added sodium.
8. Soup and sauces.
Boost nutritional value of soups and sauces by adding a kidney beans, green beans, corn, or peas. Beans provide both soluble and insoluble fiber to promote healthy cholesterol levels.
Enjoy a healthy, refreshing smoothie made with frozen fruit, yogurt, and ice. Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to boost omega 3’s.
Remember… your goal is to consume 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables EVERY DAY.
Do you consume 2 ½ cups of vegetables daily as recommended by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans?
Cruciferous vegetables are a nutrient-rich option for boosting daily vegetable intake. These vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins K, C, and E, folate, calcium, and potassium.
One cup of Kale provides over 1000 mcg of vitamin K. The fiber, potassium, folic acid, and vitamin C found in kale support heart health. Select dark, colored bunches of kale, avoiding yellow and brown leaves.
Microwave or steam broccoli instead of boiling it to reduce nutrient losses. You can consume both the stalks and the florets. Broccoli is a rich source of the enzyme sulforaphane, which is involved in liver detoxification and three B vitamins ( B6, B12, and folate) that reduce homocysteine levels.
A good source of Vitamins C and K, consume cabbage raw, cooked, or fermented. Fermented cabbage, such as sauerkraut, provides additional probiotic benefits.
Cauliflower is a rich source of giver, vitamin C, and folate. Boiling cauliflower results in significant phytonutrient loss. Instead, consume cauliflower raw, sautéed, or steamed for the greatest nutrient “bang”. Research shows cholesterol-lowering properties of cabbage are increased when steamed.
Both mature and “baby” forms of arugula have a peppery taste. While most commonly consumed in salads, arugula can also be sautéed. This is a very low-calorie vegetable, providing Vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid, potassium, calcium.
Low in calories, kohlrabi provides B vitamins, phosphorous, potassium, and calcium. Both bulbs and greens are both edible. The bulbs can be consumed cooked or raw, while the greens are typically steamed or sautéed.
#7 Bok choy
A great source of calcium and vitamins A, C, and K, both the leaves and stalks of bok choy are edible. Bok choy is most commonly consumed in stir-fries and soups, but consider adding the more tender “baby” bok choy to salads for a fresh, crunchy texture.
All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
Health Pro for HealthCentral
Folic acid is synthetic form of the water-soluble vitamin B9. Folate is the natural form of this vitamin found in foods. There is debate surrounding which form of vitamin B9 is healthiest – folic acid versus folate, but I don’t want to explore that argument today. For the sake of our discussion, folic acid is equal to folate and I’m using the terms interchangeably.
Folic acid plays an important role in energy production and the immune system.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that comes from the normal breakdown of proteins in the body. Folic acid is one vitamin supporting the breakdown of amino acids. Research has suggested that deficiencies of folic acid and other B vitamins lead to elevated homocysteine levels, which has been evaluated as a potential risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Children seem to have more bumps, bug bites and scrapes than anyone else in the family. Yet most over-the-counter (OTC) remedies have side effects that are risky to our little ones.
Sherry Torkos award winning pharmacist and author of Saving Women’s Hearts, has taken a moment to share some of her favorite picks for smarter, safer alternatives that are especially good to have on hand in the spring and summer. According to Torkos, most of these can be used for kids as young as two years old as well as the adults in your household.
Metabolic syndrome is the presence of three or more of the following conditions…
This “cluster” of factors known as metabolic syndrome doubles heart disease risk with a five-fold risk increase of developing Type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome has also been connected to cancers, including prostate, breast, endometrial, colorectal, and liver.
Metabolic syndrome affects 35 percent of US adults and 10 percent of adolescents.
Here are three steps to counteract metabolic syndrome: