Oh Gosh, Now what? My Cholesterol is High.
Today, hasn’t been the best of days for me, a lack of sleep resulted in starting the day off with a battery level equivalent to that of a used iPhone. Add in Matt’s “I’m not feeling great” grumpiness, nausea and a constant bout of dizziness. I’m not a fan of going to the doctor, so much so, that I don’t even have a regular GP. Alas, I had to go. This has been happening to me more regularly over the last few weeks.
So the outcome of my doctors visit –
- A slight case of gastro (apparently); meds prescribed,
- no clue as to why I constantly feel like poo (Other issues = another blog)
- Blood tests ordered and lastly,
- An overall cholesterol level of 6.2mmol/L (HIGH, should be under 5mmol/L) and a LDL level of just under 5mmol/L (it should be under 3mmol/L).
So, I was leaving the doc’s rooms with a bit of a shock. I train, I eat healthy and avoid the “bad’ stuff as much as possible. So why do I have a high cholesterol.
What is cholesterol?
Are you alive? Yes? well then, you produce cholesterol. Our livers can produce between 1 and 2 grams of cholesterol per day. We have been taught that cholesterol is a bad thing and that we have to avoid it at all costs. To get a better understanding of this “cholesterol is bad” statement we need to dive into the subject a bit deeper.
Cholesterol is fatty and doesn’t mix well with blood, so it travels in our blood via a protein “wrapper” known as a lipoprotein.
(the prefix “lipo” is similar to “lipid”, and both come from the Greek lipos, meaning fat).
Looking deeper into cholesterol we learn about HDL, LDL and Lp(a). Now these aren’t actually “cholesterols” but rather the protein “wrappers” used to transport the cholesterol.
High Density Lipoprotein, aka HDL, aka “The GOOD One”
HDL’s are considered the heart healthy lipoproteins because of their role in reverse cholesterol transport.Essentially, HDL mops up excess cholesterol and brings it to the liver for disposal.
In general, we want the cholesterol content of HDL particles to be higher. This usually indicates well-functioning reverse cholesterol transport system and lower cardiovascular disease risk.
Low Density Lipoprotein, aka LDL, aka “The BAD One”
LDLs are often considered as the dangerous lipoproteins because of their role in depositing cholesterol into our arteries. LDL comes in two general types.
- Large buoyant LDL particles (indicates good health) and
- Small dense LDL particles (which indicates poor health)
And lastly, we have Lp(a), another lipoprotein that can help restore damaged blood vessels in a healthy body. Too much and we in trouble again. So yeah, this is a pretty complex subject.
This is all very complex but thanks to Precision Nutrition and their analogies, we can understand it a bit better. read below.
Your blood stream is like a highway. Lipoproteins are like cars (LDL) and ambulances (HDL).Cholesterol and fats are like passengers in those cars and ambulances.The guardrails on the highway are like the lining of your vessels.
If there are too many cars (LDL), there are likely to be more crashes into the guard rails. When an LDL particle crashes the lining of the vessel, it can initiate the process of plaque formation on an artery. HDL particles would be like the ambulance who comes to the scene of the crash and takes the passengers back to the hospital (Liver).
As you can see, it’s not the passengers (cholesterol) that are the main concern, it’s the number of cars on the road (LDL).
A Doctor’s Action Plan for a High Cholesterol Reading.
Doc: You have high cholesterol.
Matt: ok, and how do tackle this problem and bring it down?
Doc: I can give you a pill that you have to take every day. that should bring it down
Matt: Will it fix this cholesterol issue?
Doc: Possibly BUT it will bring the numbers down and you can get bonus points on vitality. It is so important to get your numbers down.
Matt: No thanks, ill clean my diet up a bit more. Thanks for the “help”.
We see this way too often and not only with cholesterol but with anything medically related. We often hear complaints of doctors prescribing medication to treat the symptoms and not the problem. All with a smile from ear to ear.
Seeing that I want to adjust my cholesterol levels myself without going on meds, I need to adjust what I put into my mouth.
After some research, I have found a few things that I can possibly do to help me with my cholesterol numbers. These are some of the most popular solutions I found. A few of them wont help me but they might help you.
Here they are:
1: Get Leaner and Stay There.
Excessive body fat can be a contributor to higher cholesterol. Leaning up and losing some of that body fat can have a big impact on bringing down your numbers.
2: At least 5 Hours of Exercise per Week
How do you get leaner? Two things you can do, exercise and control your nutritional intake. Look at increasing your exercise to at least 5 hours per week. Everybody is different but make sure to include resistance and cardiovascular training. If you are not a fan of the gym, find an activity that will assist in the fat loss journey and remember, have fun while doing it.
3: Eat Right or Eat Better
Food is fuel and the body needs its vooma, but it also needs all its nutrients. Make sure to include daily veggies, fruits (no they wont make you fat), whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. You also want to supplement or eat foods high in omega 3 fatty acids. Several studies have shown that omega 3 can reduce your LDL levels.
4: Limit Meat, Processed Foods and Trans Fats
Excessive consumption of meat can be a precursor for high cholesterol. If you cannot get away from the meat, try decrease your weekly consumption (bonus – Save the environment as well). Processed foods, as we all know, are not ideal in any type of meal plan. If you are eating them, cut it out and replace it with as whole, unprocessed foods.
5: Limit the Alcohol consumption
Does this one really need an explanation. Alcohol, can be considered as an enemy to a healthy body and healthy mind.
To close it off, I have started looking at how to decrease my LDL and my overall cholesterol and I am looking forward to the final results of efforts. If you have been told you have high cholesterol, don’t take it as the end of your world. Look at it as a new adventure to becoming a better, healthier you.
And that’s all I have for you today.