It is a fairly known fact that cholesterol is something that should be monitored and regulated; that is has a very serious effect on your overall well-being, a high total of it is bad, and all that jazz. But what exactly is cholesterol? What is considered healthy? How do you keep in it check, how do you know it’s actually high, what are some things to avoid or do to insure you actually have a healthy level of it. We’ll talk about those things here briefly, along with the possibility of cholesterol reaching too low of a level.
Cholesterol levels can fall into three ranges; for adults, a normal level usually ranges from 140-200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Any levels that reach above 240 mg/dl are considered high, and as you probably guess any levels dropping below 140 mg/dl are considered low.
But before diving into different levels of cholesterol, and all of the topics that encompass it, let’s cover very quickly what cholesterol even is. It is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in the body and is actually created by the liver. The foods that we eat also contain cholesterol, so as you will see momentarily that affect our levels substantially. Cholesterol is present in just about every nook and cranny of the body, including our brains, nerves, muscles, and yes most importantly—the heart.
Why is high cholesterol a concern?
Ultimately, if you have high levels of cholesterol throughout your body, you are increasing your chances at developing cardiovascular diseases, namely heart disease. While it is not good for the rest of the usual affected areas either, the heart is the most at risk here. The cholesterol will build up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to and from your heart; if this build up gets to too high of levels, there is less blood being pumped, thus less oxygen flowing through your body. Heart attacks, stroke, and chest pain are also at risk here. To find out your cholesterol levels, just be sure to visit your doctor and have yourself checked out. No use hiding from something as controllable as cholesterol.
How can I lower my cholesterol levels?
Don’t let a higher level of cholesterol scare you; your body creates it for a purpose and uses it to function properly, it’s just up to you to maintain it. That being said, there are ways to help control that pesky cholesterol, and they really are no brainers.
While such things like genetics, age, and weight are all also factors in what your levels are at naturally, actions you take can battle that. Aeorbic exercise is one of the most helpful things you can do to bring your levels down; aim for about 30-60 minutes of some type of aerobic exercise (running, swimming, biking) on most days out of the week.
Your diet is a huge contributor to the levels in your body. So it should come naturally to you that you should stop eating foods that contain high levels of fat (ice cream, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, etc.). Now you don’t need to cut it out completely, that’s nearly impossible. But start replacing those bad fats with good, healthy fats, especially monounsaturated fats. Think nuts, avocados, and other such foods.
Taking natural supplements is also a great idea, especially if your diet is not giving you sufficient nutrients and vitamins (and don’t beat yourself up over this either, a lot of people don’t get their required daily intake, so supplements are awesome!) Fish oil is an excellent one to consider; it is known to lower triglyceride levels (fatty cells, basically). Garlic is also a good supplement to take, as it is known to reduce over all levels of cholesterol on its own.
Other steps can be taken to fight high cholesterol like quitting smoking, practicing stress reduction techniques, and most importantly educating yourself on what it is you are putting in your body in the first place. Read labels, get to know the food you eat!
My levels are actually considered low, can this be a problem?
Low levels of cholesterol are obviously something you should strive for in terms of your health altogether; many if not almost all doctors have said there is really no huge health concern or chance of complications if your levels are below the normal level. A lot of people who are considered healthy have had extremely low levels, and never had any issues arise because of it.
However, there are always exceptions to the rules. While in general you should not worry about this, do be weary that every now and then something does come up. Your heart will be just fine, but it’s the other areas of your body that may be affected, if at all; the brain, liver, and digestive system have been known to rarely suffer from unusually low levels of cholesterol.
Some doctors have come across cases where depression and anxiety were present in people with very low levels; low levels of cholesterol can hinder the actions of serotonin. You may eventually develop higher risks of stroke; cholesterol actually helps maintain blood flow in the brain. There have also been cases of low baby weight in women who had low levels of cholesterol, and in some cases premature birth.
These are really the main concerns, and as mentioned, they rarely ever occur in conjunction with low levels of cholesterol, so do not worry yourself over it.
So, you’re saying cholesterol is not the worst thing and is here to stay?
That’s right! Cholesterol is absolutely necessary in order for your body to function properly. But, as with most things in our lives, we just need to be sure to maintain a healthy balance of it in order for it to do its job appropriately. So that of course means living in moderation and taking actions to keep yourself healthy. More than just your cholesterol is going to benefit from that!
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