High LDL cholesterol levels are one of the major health problems affecting many people around the world.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is vital for the human body. It plays a role in the structure of cell walls, as well as a variety of hormones. It is also vital for the synthesis of bile acid and is part of energy metabolism.
It is a substance of the lipid family that we find completely naturally in our body and in some of the foods we eat through the diet and which is essential for its role in certain important body functions.
Functions of cholesterol
- It covers the neuronal connections in the brain, helping to promote a correct synapse or connection between them
- Involved in the formation of tissues and membranes
- It intervenes in the formation of vitamin D, essential for good bone calcification
- It is part of different hormones such as estrogen and testosterone
- It is part of the bile acid
- Involved in energy metabolism
Plaques can narrow or even block arteries and lead to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
There is a great deal of information indicating that high levels of LDL cholesterol are strongly associated with a risk of coronary heart disease. When LDL cholesterol levels are high, cholesterol deposits on the walls of the arteries and forms the hard substance called plaque.
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per decilitre of blood (mg/dl). So that excess cholesterol does not build up in our arteries, we must try to maintain balanced blood cholesterol levels, i.e. high HDL cholesterol and low LDL cholesterol.
To clear up any doubts about this, we are now going to explain which types of cholesterol there are, which we call good and which bad, and how each of them acts. We will also name some of the most effective cholesterol-lowering supplements and some effective tips for keeping cholesterol in healthy ranges.
Types of cholesterol
When we eat a food, a fat contained in it, is also contained in the body, which must digest it and transport it to various tissues to carry out its functions.
This binding leads to the appearance of various types of lipoproteins that vary in composition, weight and function. In summary, a lipoprotein is a fat nucleus (insoluble in water) that is surrounded by proteins and phospholipids, which are water-soluble on the outside.
Depending on the amount of proteins that are bound and the type of fat that they contain, the lipoproteins are more or less heavy.
Fat has a lower density, so the more lipids (fat) there are in relation to the amount of protein or phospholipids, the less heavy the lipoprotein will be and it will be classified as low density. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) are called bad cholesterol.
Opposite to LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol is made up of lipoproteins which have a higher density that collects excess cholesterol in the blood and moves it towards the liver. Therefore, HDL cholesterol is also called “good” cholesterol.
In summary, 4 types of lipoproteins can be distinguished and all of them are important, as they are basically responsible for the transport of lipids within the body; but the most important for health are high density lipoproteins (high density lipoproteins HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol) and low density lipoproteins (low density lipoproteins LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol).
Low density lipoproteins
- These lipoproteins by themselves are not harmful to the organism, their main objective is to mobilise cholesterol to the tissues of our body, but a surplus of it can be packed into the walls of veins and arteries
- They have a higher amount of fat than protein
- The fat it possesses sticks to the elastin in the vein walls favouring atherosclerosis
High density lipoproteins
- Proportionally contain more protein than fat
- The proteins they possess have an affinity for the cholesterol and fats that may be found circulating in the blood, so that, as they circulate in the bloodstream, they can “sweep away” the cholesterol and fats that are found and move them towards the liver where they are processed and prevent the lipids from piling up on the walls of the veins and arteries, causing plaques that gradually clog up the veins and arteries (arteriosclerosis)
- They encourage the “mobilisation of old cholesterol” for the creation of cell membranes
- In a way, they cleanse the circulatory system of fats that were stagnant on the walls of arteries and veins
Advice to reduce cholesterol
To reduce the LDL levels and raise the HDL levels, it is necessary to:
- Reduce consumption of processed foods high in saturated and trans fats (bakery, industrial bakery and precooked foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils – trans fats)
- Reduce consumption of certain foods rich in animal fats (highly cured cheeses, sausages, butter, etc.)
- Increase consumption of vegetable fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, maize, peanuts, linseed, etc)
- Increase the consumption of fibre in our diet (fruit, vegetables, cereals, etc.)
- Exercising, walking or trying to do some physical activity every day
- Increase consumption of fish or products that have omega-3 fatty acids
- Keep track of your weight and keep it at appropriate levels or lose weight if necessary
- Carry out regular medical check-ups including analysis of total cholesterol and HDL and LDL cholesterol. In cases where the imbalances of lipoproteins are due to metabolic or genetic factors, it is the doctor who must put the appropriate treatment, so that added to the previous recommendations the expected results are achieved
Natural cholesterol control products
In this article, we show you some of the most beneficial supplements for keeping LDL cholesterol at healthy levels:
Vitamins C and E
They prevent the oxidation of cholesterol and its adhesion to the arteries forming plaques.
Gugulipid is an extract from the resin of a tree native to India and contains substances called gugulsterones. Gugulsterones have the ability to reduce the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
Phospholipids, such as soya lecithin, prevent cholesterol from being deposited on the arterial and venous walls.
OatOat has soluble fibre that can absorb water and other substances such as cholesterol that flow through the blood. It also has the ability to stimulate peristalsis, to help eliminate LDL cholesterol. In addition, oat bran does not allow excess cholesterol to build up in the arteries, preventing arterial clogging and cardiovascular disease.
Garlic extract is very beneficial for maintaining cardiovascular health. It contains a substance called allicin, which prevents arteriosclerosis by increasing levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and reducing triglycerides and bad cholesterol.
Grape extract contains oligomeric proanthocyanins, substances with great properties antioxidants which have the ability to reduce cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels.
Taurine is a amino acid, which among many other functions, is required by the organism to make bile. Assuming that part of the cholesterol is used to make more bile, a taurine supplement could reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids
Red Yeast rice
Recently, red yeast rice has been developed by Chinese and American scientists as a product that has the ability to reduce blood lipid levels, including cholesterol and triglycerides thanks to a set of chemical compounds called monacolins.
Plant sterols and stanols, also called phytosterols/phytostanols, are natural substances present in reduced doses in many foods that make up our daily diet: fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts and cereals.
Phytosterols have a structure similar to cholesterol, but our body cannot absorb them. When their consumption is increased, within a balanced diet, phytosterols prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the human intestine, causing a decrease in blood cholesterol concentrations.
Policosanol is a cholesterol product that is an effective alternative to many prescription drugs. It is a natural substance consisting of a mixture of long chain fatty alcohols (LCFA) which are extracted from sugar cane.
These alcohols have high cholesterol-lowering properties, i.e. they reduce total blood cholesterol and bad or LDL cholesterol levels.
InositolInositol is another natural product that helps to reduce bad cholesterol. It is an organic, which in the past was considered as one of the family of group B vitamins.
Although the supplements mentioned above can be of great help in reducing cholesterol levels, they are totally ineffective if not combined with a healthy lifestyle.
It is also very important to do regular physical exercise according to the physical and clinical situation of each person. Once we have controlled these factors, it is time to add some kind of supplement to reinforce the reduction of LDL cholesterol.
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