In the midst of the holiday season, heart attacks and strokes are common. And when these occur, the usual suspect is high cholesterol.
Cholesterol is controversial simply because it’s misunderstood. According to Rapha Health’s Dr. Chris Enriquez, a cardiologist trained and based in the United States, cholesterol isn’t the enemy. It can be actually be a friend.
First, cholesterol doesn’t kill—inflammation does. Second, there’s good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Third, no situation is ever irreversible.
Some benefits of cholesterol:
1) It is needed for the basic processes of every cell for normal body functions.
2) It ensures hormone production.
3) High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol that scavenges and removes Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol.
4) HDL reduces, reuses and recycles LDL cholesterol by transporting it to the liver, where it can be reprocessed.
5) HDL cholesterol acts as maintenance for the inner walls (endothelium) of blood vessels. Damage to the inner walls is the first step in atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and strokes. HDL scrubs the wall clean and keeps it healthy.
Without cholesterol, wound-healing would not be possible. Even the brain needs it to function properly.
Sources of good cholesterol:
Fish—Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut and mackerel have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are rich with HDL or good cholesterol.
Nuts—Raw nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews have high levels of HDL cholesterol, and are rich in polyunsaturated fats.
Soluble fiber—Foods that are rich in soluble fiber include fruits like apples, pears and prunes with skin on. Grains, oatmeal and beans also provide good cholesterol.
Olive oil—Olive oil is high in antioxidants which help lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol levels.
Sources of bad cholesterol:
Saturated and trans fats
Animal fats such as poultry skin, red meat fat, egg yolk and full-fat dairy
The human body has a unique and magnificent healing machinery. When any part of it is injured, cholesterol is given a mission to heal it. Thus, the presence of cholesterol means that the body is doing its job.
However, if inflammation is continuous, more cholesterol is released. And the result in the blood vessels is plaque.
The challenge is how to keep the body in optimum health to combat inflammation.
It begins from the inside. Unknown to most people, there is a slow buildup of inflammation over the years, and our daily habits contribute to its prevention or growth.
Inflammation is caused by the following factors:
Unhealthy lifestyle through abuse of or neglect to the body
Heavy metal poisoning such as mercury and lead
Lack of exercise or adequate sleep
If you want to check your inflammation level, see your doctor and undergo a blood test.
Important matters to look out for:
C-reactive protein—general and cardiac
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate
No cause for alarm
There is new trend of thinking among health experts that a slightly elevated LDL is no cause for alarm. In fact, the opposite is true—very low cholesterol is more dangerous than high cholesterol.
Keeping carbohydrate levels down is an effective way to control lipoproteins known as triglycerides.
Carbohydrates can raise triglycerides. Therefore, restrict carbohydrate intake.
Many factors contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke. Genes and gender play a role, but what we eat is an important factor as well.
The good news is that a few small changes to your diet can help lower your cholesterol, which in turn will lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Here are some cholesterol busters, according to Rapha Health:
1) Eat meat sparingly. Relegate it to a minor part of your diet, instead of making it the centerpiece of most meals. Limit meat to six ounces per day (a three-ounce portion is about the size of a deck of playing cards.)
Trim off fat and skin from meat and poultry. Avoid fatty cuts of beefs, pork and lamb.
Eat fish or skinless chicken breast. Stay away from cholesterol-rich organ meats such as liver, brain, bone marrow and kidneys.
2) Opt for low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Avoid dairy foods that contain whole milk or full cream.
3) Watch the snacks. Choose low-fat or non-fat snacks (homemade popcorn, carrots, dried fruits or fresh fruits) instead of high-fat ones (potato chips, cookies, candy or chocolate bars).
Avoid store-bought bakery products unless they say explicitly that it is low in saturated fats and trans fats. Avoid foods that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils among their ingredients.
4) Cut down on saturated fats in cooking. Use liquid cooking oils (extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil) rather than butter or margarine. Use nonstick pans instead of frying your food; bake, broil, roast, steam or stew. Discard drippings. Baste instead with wine or broth.
5) Restrict sodium. Avoid foods that contain a lot of salt to avoid hypertension.
6) Increase complex carbohydrates and fiber. Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole-grain products and legumes (dried beans and peas) that are lower in calories and high in fiber. Eat more water-soluble fiber such as that found in oat bran and fruits. This type of fiber can significantly lower your blood cholesterol level when eaten in conjunction with a low-fat diet.
7) Go for nuts. Nuts are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. They’re a healthy and filling source of protein, but go easy on them. They have lots of calories, so too much would cause weight gain. Or eat sparingly if your uric acid is high.
8) Read labels carefully. Avoid prepared foods that list any of the following as the first few ingredients: meat fat, palm oil, cream, butter, egg or yolk solids, lard, chocolate, butter, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat or oil. Watch out for fastfood and unlabeled products.
9) Change strategy. If three months of healthy eating don’t bring your total and LDL cholesterol levels down, consult your physician and/or dietician. Further changes may have to be made in your diet and lifestyle.
(Reference: Rapha Health)
This week’s affirmation: “Victory is mine in all I do.” Love and light!