High cholesterol is a health problem suffered by 50.8 million men and 55.9 million women. These numbers are as of April 1, 2008. High cholesterol should not be taken lightly. High cholesterol can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure, among other health problems.
Controlling cholesterol, which means both decreasing the bad cholesterol and increasing the good cholesterol, can be accomplished, however, with diet, exercise, and medication when needed.
There are two types of cholesterol-LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is bad cholesterol, HDL is good cholesterol.
As LDL travels through the arteries, the potential for plaque to form arises. This can cause the arteries to narrow and lose their flexibility. All this causes a decrease in blood circulation, which can lead to circulation-related health problems.
HDL, however, appears to have the capacity to carry bad cholesterol through the bloodstream back to the liver, where it is metabolized. Good circulation continues to be achieved, and the threat of circulation-related health problems is reduced.
LDL numbers need to be low, while HDL numbers need to be high. In fact, it has been proven that having low HDL is almost as serious as having high LDL.
The benefits of maintaining proper LDL and HDL numbers are many. First and foremost, the chance of suffering heart attack, stroke, embolisms (blood clots that break off from other parts of the circulatory system and travel to the heart or lungs) and aneurysms (blood clots that form in the brain and/or aorta, as well as other places) are diminished when both cholesterol levels are normal or as close to that as possible.
Additionally, beginning and maintaining a healthy cholesterol diet serves a two-fold purpose. It not only helps control cholesterol, but also helps maintain a safe weight.
LDL numbers need to be low, while HDL numbers need to be high. In fact, it has been proven that having low HDL is almost as serious as having high LDL. Getting both HDL and LDL cholesterol numbers to an acceptable level, which is less than 200 mg/dl-milligrams per deciliter of blood–when both numbers are combined, is important for overall good health.
Whenever possible, cholesterol control should be achieved through proper diet and exercise. A diet that includes oatmeal, oat bran, and other whole-wheat products, fish that is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, almonds, walnuts, and other nuts, eaten in moderate amounts, and eliminating or reducing fats will help keep cholesterol numbers where they should be. And, when it comes to exercise, remember a brisk walk at least three times a week is the easiest way to accomplish that.
The best way cholesterol problems can be prevented or at least diminished is through careful monitoring of cholesterol levels (a health-care professional can help with this). From there, the proper steps can be taken to bring the numbers to acceptable levels.
People who currently do not show signs of high cholesterol may be able to prevent them from occurring completely by making any needed changes in diet, starting or continuing an exercise program, and having cholesterol levels monitored.
If diet and exercise do not make an appreciable difference in the reduction of LDL and the raising of HDL, then a health-care professional may need to prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs. If this happens, the medication should be taken exactly as it should be, as often as it should be, for as long as needed.