Having cholesterol numbers that fall outside the normal range doesn’t have any obvious symptoms, so it may have slipped your attention. But it’s worth a look because too much or too little cholesterol in your system can have some serious consequences.
Here at the Ally Endocrinology in Troy, Michigan , our extensive team of specialists diagnoses and treats a wide range of health issues, including high cholesterol. Your endocrine system is a complex network of glands that produce and secrete hormones, and they need cholesterol to function properly.
If you have high cholesterol, it may affect your endocrine system and also put you at risk for heart disease and heart attacks. Here’s what you need to know.
What is cholesterol?
Your liver makes cholesterol, a fatty substance that helps your body make hormones and vitamins and build new cells. You also get cholesterol from eating animal products like meat and dairy. If you eat too much of those foods, which are also high in saturated fat, your liver kicks into high gear and produces more cholesterol, and you suddenly have more than your body can handle.
There are two main types of cholesterol, and triglycerides also factor into the process:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol because it’s sluggish and builds up on the inner walls of your arteries and may lead to heart attacks, strokes, or peripheral artery disease (PAD).
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
Considered “good” cholesterol, HDL transports LDL cholesterol out of your arteries and returns it to your liver for processing and elimination.
Triglycerides, a common form of fat, play an important role in your cholesterol health, and when you have high levels of triglycerides and LDL along with low HDL, your risk for heart diseases increases.
Here’s a general guideline for a healthy cholesterol range from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology:
- Total cholesterol: 200 or lower
- HDL: 60 or higher
- LDL: less than 100
- Triglycerides: 100 (but lower than 149 is acceptable)
Remember that these numbers are useful tools, but not they don’t tell the whole story of your health. Our team can help you understand what your own numbers mean and how they impact you. If you do have high cholesterol, there are steps you can take to bring it down.
Five ways to fight high cholesterol
Keeping your cholesterol within a healthy range is largely within your control. Here are five tips to keep high cholesterol from hijacking your health.
1. Watch what you eat
Much of the cholesterol in your system comes from the foods you eat, so if your cholesterol numbers are high, cut back on cholesterol-rich foods such as red meat and full-fat dairy products. Check nutrition labels, and avoid products with trans fat whenever possible.
But it’s not all about eliminating things from your diet; there are foods you can add that can help your cholesterol levels. More soluble fiber — found in kidney and other beans, oatmeal, and apples — can reduce your cholesterol. Whey protein can lower your LDL and total cholesterol.
2. Exercise more
Exercise is a great way to boost your HDL level. And you don’t need to run a marathon to get the benefits. Moderate, but regular, exercise does the trick. At least 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity at least three times a week helps control your cholesterol and makes you feel great.
3. Lose weight
Being overweight or obese is tightly linked to high cholesterol. When you eat a healthy diet and exercise more, losing weight should happen naturally. Even a few pounds can make a huge difference: Losing just 5% of your body weight is enough to lower your cholesterol.
4. Drink alcohol responsibly
Alcohol is not entirely bad for you, and studies show that in moderation, alcohol may increase your HDLs and help stop LDLs from clogging your arteries. But that doesn’t mean you should self-medicate with alcohol, as too much can have the reverse effect.
If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start; there are plenty of ways to control your cholesterol. If you do drink, drink in moderation — one 12-ounce beer or one 5-ounce glass of wine — to avoid the negative effects on your cholesterol levels.
5. Don’t smoke
Nicotine directly correlates with your cholesterol levels, and quitting improves your numbers almost immediately.
In the first 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure begin to recover. In three weeks, your HDL cholesterol increases. After three months, your lung function and circulation significantly improve. And after a year, you’ve cut your risk of heart disease in half.
If you know you have high cholesterol and need help bringing your numbers in line, or if you want to know about your cholesterol health, contact us by phone or online at any of our locations in Troy, Michigan , to arrange an appointment with our team.