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Typically assumed to inflict solely negative consequences, cholesterol is actually a necessary component of a healthy body. Cholesterol is a waxy substance in the blood, critical in the digestion of dietary fats, the building of cell walls and in manufacturing vitamins and hormones. One of the secrets to securing a healthy body, including a healthy liver, is to maintain an ideal balance of cholesterol levels.
If cholesterol levels are too high, a person is at risk for coronary artery disease, heart disease, a metabolic disorder or even liver disease. Embedded in vehicles known as lipoproteins, cholesterol is transported in the bloodstream to be used or excreted throughout the body. When these inhabitants of our blood become overpopulated, traffic jams can result, blocking subsequent blood flow in the vessels. Impeded circulation is a primary factor in most types of illness.
Cholesterol and the Liver Excessive cholesterol in the blood can deposit plaques along the vessels, contributing to the development of atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries. While atherosclerosis is a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, it can also have negative consequences on the liver.
The relationship between the liver and blood cholesterol is multi-faceted:
· Synthesis of bile acids - Essential to the digestive process, the liver synthesizes bile acids from cholesterol. Bile acids emulsify dietary fat, allowing for its absorption in the intestines.
· Liver circulation - Liver disease, particularly cirrhosis, can lead to portal hypertension. Portal hypertension is the result of high blood pressure within the portal vein, where the blood enters the liver. When blood cannot flow easily through the liver, internal pressure increases, posing the risk of ruptured blood vessels. Cholesterol deposits may also contribute to decreased blood flow in the liver, further restricting the vessels that safely handle the liver's duties.
· Removal of cholesterol - High-density lipoproteins (HDL) help remove excessive cholesterol from the body by transporting it to the liver for its breakdown and excretion. As a diseased liver's function decreases, do does its ability to remove excessive cholesterol from the blood supply.
What is Excessive Cholesterol?
According to the American Heart Association, about 20 percent of the U.S. population has high blood cholesterol levels. When getting your cholesterol checked, there are four numeric values that come into play - total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoproteins), HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and triglycerides.
· Total Cholesterol - A comprehensive measurement of the cholesterol in your blood, it is desirable to have a value less than 200 mg/dL. A person carries a borderline level of health risks if the total cholesterol is between 200-239 mg/dL, and is considered high risk if total cholesterol exceeds 239 mg/dL.
· LDL - This cholesterol is the primary cause of harmful fatty buildup in arteries. The higher the LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, the greater the health risk. Ideal LDL levels are below 100 mg/dL, while values exceeding 159 mg/dL carry a high risk of cardiovascular disease.
· HDL - This form carries blood cholesterol back to the liver, where it can be eliminated. HDL helps prevent a cholesterol buildup in blood vessels. While values typically range from 40 to 60 mg/dL, an HDL under 40 mg/dL puts the individual at risk for cardiovascular disease. Studies suggest that high levels of HDL cholesterol reduce your risk of heart attack.
· Triglycerides - Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. Triglyceride levels under 150 mg/dL are normal, while values exceeding 199 mg/dL carry a high risk of cardiovascular disease.
Due to the delicate balance of useful cholesterol and damaging cholesterol, most physicians rely on specific ratios of these four numeric values to determine healthy blood cholesterol.
These include lifestyle modifications, such as smoking cessation, regular exercise, a diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat, as well as reliance on cholesterol lowering medications.
Awareness of cardiovascular risk by improving your cholesterol ratio will benefit not only your heart's health, but also your liver's health. While the heart muscle pumps blood throughout the body, the liver must cleanse the blood and extract ingredients critical to sustaining life.
Just as the heart and liver contribute to blood maintenance health, all of our organs and body systems work in unison to support the proper functioning of our bodies. Factors that affect one system will likely affect every other. So if optimal liver health is desired, then steps to increase HDL and decrease LDL and triglycerides are definitely called for.
References: Henkel, John, Keeping Cholesterol Under Control, FDA Consumer Magazine, January/February 1999.
www.abouthypertension.info, Health Issues Associated with Hypertension, NCERx LLC 2006.
www.americanheart.org, About Cholesterol, American Heart Association, Inc., 2006.
www.liverdisease.com, Cholesterol and Liver Disease/Hepatitis, Melissa Palmer, MD, 2004.
As always, before you attempt to self medicate or try a new health regimen or program we suggest you retain the services of a qualified health care professional.
Undesirable Effects of Excess Blood Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty, viscous substance produced by the liver. This substance has many purposes inside the body and in normal amounts it is benefic for the proper activity of the organism. Cholesterol has a very important role in protecting blood cells from damage, by covering their superficial membrane. The body also uses cholesterol in producing bile acids (which are vital in digestion of fat), vitamin D and hormones (testosterone and estrogen).
The body requires very small quantities of cholesterol to sustain its normal activity. When cholesterol is produced in excess, this substance accumulates in the bloodstream and deposits in different places of the organism. Excess cholesterol adheres to the interior walls of arteries, soft tissues and body organs, obstructing the normal blood flow. Like many other fats, cholesterol can't be dissolved by the blood and therefore it can easily build up inside the body, causing a lot of harm. If cholesterol blocks the coronary arteries it can cause cardio-vascular diseases and even heart-attack.
Apart from internal dysfunctions that cause an overproduction of cholesterol, the excessive accumulation of this substance is also facilitated by other factors like inappropriate diet, lack of physical exercise, smoking and the consumption of alcohol. Inappropriate diet rich in saturated fats and simple carbohydrates greatly contributes to blood cholesterol build up. Foods like fatty meats (pork, poultry), organ meats (heart, liver, kidneys), fat dairy products (milk, cheese, butter), chocolate, peanuts considerably increase blood cholesterol levels. Smoking also causes a lot of harm to arteries and facilitates the accumulation of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Smoking is a major factor of risk in heart disease and many people who have abnormally high blood cholesterol levels are smokers. Alcohol abuse is also a factor of risk in heart disease, as it also raises blood cholesterol levels.
Whether high blood cholesterol is the consequence of internal dysfunctions or the consequence of unhealthy lifestyle and diet, it is important to take steps in normalizing its values. Avoid smoking, the consumption of alcohol and fatty foods if you have high blood cholesterol levels. An appropriate diet rich in unsaturated fat, complex carbohydrates and natural fibers can help eliminate blood cholesterol deposits and can also prevent its excess accumulation inside the body. Regular physical exercise is another good means of improving blood circulation and hence, decongesting the arteries clogged with cholesterol.
The Malign Effects of High Cholesterol
Statistics reveal that around 20 percent of people in the United States have abnormally high cholesterol. High cholesterol is a major factor of risk in heart disease and therefore it needs to be reduced to normal levels in order to maintain the health of the organism. In some people, high cholesterol levels can be lowered through the means of a healthy diet and proper physical exercise. However, people with genetic predispositions to heart disease and cholesterol accumulation sometimes also require medications for lowering blood cholesterol levels. Some people have high cholesterol levels due to liver hyperactivity or other internal dysfunctions. For this category of people, appropriate diet, frequent physical exercise and lifestyle improvements aren't sufficient in normalizing blood cholesterol values.
Many people have high blood cholesterol levels and therefore they are exposed to heart disease. Age, gender and genetic heritage are all factors of risk in heart disease due to high blood cholesterol levels. Men are more predisposed to having abnormal blood cholesterol levels than women. People with ages over 50 also have cholesterol problems, as their bodies can't eliminate the surplus substance. Overweight people, people with internal disorders and people with diabetes have high blood cholesterol levels due to overproduction of this substance inside the body.
There are many factors that facilitate the accumulation of cholesterol inside the bloodstream. Unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and alcohol abuse all contribute to cholesterol accumulation in the organism. However, age, gender and genetic heritage are also major factors that determine either overproduction or inappropriate elimination of blood cholesterol.
High cholesterol levels are usually characteristic to people with ages over 50. Women generally have lower blood cholesterol levels than men. However, post-menopausal women have higher blood cholesterol levels than young men. Genetic heritage also affects blood cholesterol levels and people with a family history of cardio-vascular diseases usually have high cholesterol and are very exposed to developing heart disease.
Cholesterol is needed inside the organism in very small quantities. In excess, the substance can cause a lot of damage to arteries, tissues and body organs, perturbing normal blood circulation. By clogging the coronary arteries, cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol is a viscous substance produced by the liver. This substance has a very important role in synthesizing vitamin D. Cholesterol is also required for producing hormones (testosterone and estrogen) and bile salts that contribute to the digestion of fat.
The best thing to do when you have high cholesterol is to keep a good diet. Although diet alone can't always overcome cholesterol problems, it can considerably reduce "bad cholesterol". "Bad cholesterol" (low-density lipoprotein) is very harmful for the body and it is the major factor of risk in heart disease. By following a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, natural fibers and unsaturated fat you can normalize blood cholesterol levels. In order to reduce blood cholesterol levels, you should avoid foods that are rich in saturated fat (animal products) and include more vegetables and fruits in your diet. Fresh fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibers that can help in decongesting the arteries filled with cholesterol deposits.
You should avoid smoking and alcohol, as they are known to facilitate the accumulation of cholesterol inside the body. People with high cholesterol levels should exercise regularly and lose extra pounds, as obesity is also a factor of risk in heart disease. High cholesterol levels are reversible and if nothing seems to be working for you, there are medical treatments that can improve your condition.
Increasingly larger numbers of people suffer from heart disease as a consequence of high blood cholesterol levels. There are many factors that enable the accumulation of cholesterol inside the organism, but the major cause is considered to be unhealthy diet. Unhealthy diet and bad eating habits can considerably increase blood cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and it is required inside the body for fulfilling several roles: cellular protection, hormonal synthesis (testosterone and estrogen), vitamin synthesis and fat digestion. The organism needs very small quantities of cholesterol to sustain its normal activity and inappropriate diet can quickly enable cholesterol to accumulate in excess. The problem with cholesterol is that it can't be dissolved by the body fluids and it is also difficult to eliminate. When in excess, cholesterol enters the bloodstream and deposits in different places inside the body. Cholesterol can form plaque inside arteries by adhering to the inner arterial walls, causing blockage. If cholesterol deposits inside the coronary arteries (heart arteries), there is a very high risk of heart disease.
A healthy diet and appropriate exercise are vital in reducing blood cholesterol levels. It is very important to eat properly, as high cholesterol food can quickly increase blood cholesterol levels.
You should consume only low cholesterol foods and products that contain unsaturated fat. Many foods contain high levels of cholesterol: meats, eggs, dairy products, sweets. Also, foods that are rich in saturated fat can also facilitate the accumulation of cholesterol inside the body: organ meats, pork, poultry.
Low cholesterol foods should replace foods that contain high quantities of cholesterol and saturated fat. Sweets contain simple carbohydrates which increase body fat deposits and facilitate the accumulation of body cholesterol. It is advised to consume at most 300 mg of cholesterol a day. Considering the fact that a single egg contains around 300 mg of cholesterol, eating properly can be quite tricky. Not at all! You should note that only foods of animal origin contain cholesterol, while vegetal foods are cholesterol free. Although vegetables and fruits contain fat, they actually don't have any cholesterol. Low cholesterol foods also contain less saturated fat and therefore they are a lot healthier for the organism.
It is very difficult to follow a diet based only on fruits and vegetables. To diversify your diet, you can consume low cholesterol foods such as: egg whites, lean meat, fish, chicken. Other low cholesterol foods are skim milk and low-fat yogurt. You should avoid eating fried foods, as they are very unhealthy. Bake or boil low cholesterol foods and eat plenty of vegetable soups. Home-cooked meals should be preferred over supermarket foods. However, if you don't have time to cook for yourself every day, there are various low cholesterol food products available in supermarkets. It is important to understand that processed, low cholesterol foods available in convenience-stores can actually contain high quantities of saturated fat and they aren't a very healthy option. Although you can consume such food products once in a while, your diet should be based mainly on healthy, cholesterol free or low cholesterol foods.
Make Your Own Low Cholesterol Diet
Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver. This substance has many important roles inside the body and in small amounts it is very important in helping the activity of the organism. In the presence of cholesterol, the body is able to synthesize vitamin D and hormones (testosterone and estrogen). The liver also uses cholesterol in producing bile, a substance used for the digestion of fat. Cholesterol covers the exterior membrane of blood cells and protects them from damage.
Although in normal amounts cholesterol is benefic for the organism, excessive amounts of this substance inside the body can lead to serious illnesses. High blood cholesterol levels are the main factor of risk in cardio-vascular diseases and can even cause heart failure. The surplus of cholesterol inside the body enters the bloodstream and deposits in different places of the body: arteries, soft tissues, organs. When cholesterol adheres to the inner walls of arteries, it obstructs the normal blood flow and prevents the oxygenation of the body organs.
Age, gender and internal dysfunctions are all considered to be factors that enable the accumulation of cholesterol inside the body. However, inappropriate diet also has a great contribution to blood cholesterol build up. A low cholesterol diet can help the body eliminate excess cholesterol and can prevent the accumulation of the substance in the bloodstream. A low cholesterol diet can also help you lose extra weight and improve your overall physical condition.
Smoking is considered to be a major factor of risk in heart disease. Smoking facilitates cholesterol to deposit inside arteries, where they can cause blockage, perturbing the normal blood flow. If you have high blood cholesterol levels and you are a smoker, it is advised to stop smoking. Alcohol also contributes to the accumulation of cholesterol in the bloodstream and therefore it should be avoided.
There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated fat. Saturated fat facilitates the accumulation of cholesterol inside the body, while unsaturated fat reduces blood cholesterol levels and therefore minimizes the chances of developing cardio-vascular diseases. A low cholesterol diet should exclude foods that are rich in saturated fat and include more foods that contain unsaturated fat. Simple carbohydrates contained by sweets should also be excluded from your low cholesterol diet. In order to improve your digestion, you should increase natural fiber and complex carbohydrate intake.
A low cholesterol diet should minimize the intake of animal products. Fatty meats (pork, lamb), organ meats (liver, heart, kidneys) and some dairy products (fat-rich milk, cheese, butter) should be excluded from your low-cholesterol diet. Animal products not only contain a lot of cholesterol, they are also very rich in saturated fat! Eggs, bacon, salami, sausages are rich in saturated fat and they should also be excluded from your diet too. Replace fatty meats wish fish, as it is low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Your low cholesterol diet can include some dairy products, if they contain small amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat: skim-milk, light yogurts.
Your low cholesterol diet should contain plenty of vegetables and fruits, as they are cholesterol free and a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Consume plenty of green vegetables, soy, carrots, cabbage, beans, dried peas and potatoes and fresh fruits like apples, pears, oranges, nectarines, lemons.
The best thing to do is cook your own meals. A low cholesterol diet should include plenty of home-cooked meals like vegetable soups, mashed potatoes and salads. Avoid fried meals and consider grilling or boiling your food. Also, make sure that you drink enough water, as it helps in the elimination of body cholesterol.
People with high blood cholesterol levels are very exposed to developing heart disease. High cholesterol levels are common to people with ages over 50, people with weight problems, people with gastro-intestinal disorders and people with diabetes. High blood cholesterol levels can be the result of either overproduction of the substance (due to liver dysfunctions) or the inability of the body to eliminate it. However, apart from physiological factors that enable the accumulation of cholesterol inside the organism, there are also many other external factors that contribute to cholesterol build up: inappropriate diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and alcohol abuse.
Although the body is able to produce the amount of cholesterol it needs for sustaining its normal activity, a high-cholesterol diet can significantly increase blood cholesterol levels.
Foods of animal origin are rich in cholesterol and saturated fats that are very harmful to the organism when they are consumed in large amounts. You should replace meats and dairy products with vegetables, cereals and fruits in order to maintain normal cholesterol levels. Simple carbohydrates (sweets) also enable cholesterol to build up inside the body and therefore should be avoided.
Proper physical exercise is very important for keeping your blood cholesterol levels in check. Regular physical exercise improves blood circulation and helps in the elimination of excess cholesterol. Exercise frequently and you will be able to maintain normal cholesterol levels and lose extra weight.
Within normal limits, cholesterol is very important to the organism. The liver produces cholesterol (a waxy, viscous substance) in small amounts, as it is required in certain physiological processes. Without cholesterol, the body is unable to produce hormones (testosterone and estrogen), vitamin D (fortifies bone tissues) and bile (a very important substance used in digesting fat). While in small quantities cholesterol is benefic for the organism, in excess it can cause a lot of harm. Cholesterol is not soluble in blood and therefore it accumulates and deposits inside arteries, slowing down the normal blood circulation. High cholesterol levels considerably increase the risk of cardio-vascular diseases and even heart failure.
It is very important to know that there are several types of cholesterol. When you have your cholesterol levels checked, you are usually told the total cholesterol level. Total cholesterol level consists of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). Low-density lipoprotein is also known as "bad cholesterol" and this substance can be harmful to the human body when it accumulates in excess. Bad cholesterol (LDL) accumulates inside arteries and perturbs normal blood circulation. Good cholesterol (HDL) is benign to the organism, as it collects low-density lipoprotein from the bloodstream and brings it back to the liver.
By keeping a healthy diet and by exercising regularly, you will be able to raise your good cholesterol levels, while reducing bad cholesterol levels. By making improvements in your lifestyle, you will be able to maintain your total cholesterol levels in check.
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