High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Cholesterol is a soft, wax-like substance found in the bloodstream and in all of your body’s cells. It is an essential building block for healthy new cells that is produced naturally in the liver.
The medical term for high blood cholesterol is hypercholesterolemia, or Lipid Disorder. Such a disorder occurs when you have too many fatty substances in your blood. These substances include cholesterol and triglycerides.
High cholesterol can be inherited, but it’s often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, so it can be effectively prevented and treated with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Medication may be required if lifestyle changes don’t prove effective enough.
The added fats and cholesterol that you eat can cause your blood cholesterol level to rise. Having too much cholesterol in your blood may lead to increased risk for atherosclerosis, heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and stroke.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body. They’re also a major energy source. They come from food, and your body also makes them. High levels of blood triglycerides are often found in people who are overweight or have diabetes or high cholesterol levels, and heart problems.
There are different kinds of fats in the foods we eat:
- Saturated fat is the kind that raises blood cholesterol, so it’s not good for you. Avoid animal fats like lard and meat fat, and some plant fats like coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
- Trans fat comes from adding hydrogen to vegetable oils and tends to raise blood cholesterol. It’s used in commercial baked goods and for cooking in most restaurants and fast-food chains. It’s also in milk and beef.
- Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils and fish oils. These tend to lower blood cholesterol when consumed in moderation and used to replace saturated or trans fats in the diet.
- Monounsaturated fats are found in olive, canola, peanut, sunflower and safflower oils. In a low saturated-fat diet, they may lower blood cholesterol.
Cholesterol and other fats can’t dissolve in your blood. To travel to your cells, they use special carriers called lipoproteins.
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is often called “the bad kind.” When you have too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, it can join with fats and other substances to build up in the inner walls of your arteries. The arteries can become clogged and narrow, and blood flow is reduced. If this build-up of plaque ruptures, a clot may form at this location or a piece may break off and travel in the bloodstream.
- If a blood clot blocks the blood flow to your heart, it causes a heart attack.
- If a blood clot blocks an artery leading to or in the brain, a stroke results.
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the “good cholesterol”. It carries harmful cholesterol away from the arteries and helps protect you from heart attack and stroke. It’s better to have more HDL cholesterol in your blood than less.
- Atherosclerosis – a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque collects and hardens on the walls of the arteries and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body.
- Coronary artery disease – a disease in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart, and reduce the flow of blood to your heart. Plaque buildup also makes it more likely that blood clots will form in your arteries. Blood clots can partially or completely block blood flow. If blood flow to your heart muscle is reduced or blocked, you may have angina (chest pain or discomfort) or a heart attack.
- Stroke – the blockage of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, usually caused by plaque and clots.
- Heart attack
Causes and risk factors
- Genetic disorders that lead to abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
- Being overweight or obese.
- Diets that are high in saturated fats (found mainly in red meat, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy products) and trans fatty acids (found in commercial processed food products)
- Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol use
- Smoking (which reduces HDL “good” cholesterol)
- Certain medications, including birth control pills, estrogen, corticosteroids, certain diuretics, beta blockers, and certain antidepressants
- Diseases such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and kidney disease
- Lifestyle changes are the most effective way to help prevent high cholesterol
- Keep a healthy body weight
- Eat a well-balanced, low-fat diet
- Get regular exercise
What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
High blood cholesterol signals a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. That is why it is important to have your cholesterol levels checked regularly and discuss them with your doctor. A “lipoprotein profile” is a test to find out your blood cholesterol numbers. It gives information about total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and HDL (“good”) cholesterol, as well as triglycerides (blood fats).
In Canada, cholesterol is measured in milli-moles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood. The recommended values for adults are different depending on the above risk factors, but in general, the healthy ranges are as follows:
- LDL: 1.8 – 3.4 mmol/L – lower numbers are better
- HDL: greater than 1.5 mmol/L – high numbers are better
- Total cholesterol: less than 5.2 mmol/L – lower numbers are better
- Triglycerides: less than 1.7 mmol/L – lower numbers are better
How You Can Lower Your Cholesterol
You can reduce cholesterol in your blood by losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy foods, and being physically active. If these changes are not effective enough medicine may be required. Your doctor can help you set up a plan for reducing your cholesterol.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Losing weight is the easiest and simplest form of treatment. A healthy weight loss results in controlling your blood cholesterol level and other health related complications. You should aim to achieve a normal healthy weight, but any significant weight loss can lower your chance of health risk.Body Mass Index, or BMI, measures your weight in relation to your height and gives an estimate of your total body fat. A BMI of less than 25 is the goal for keeping cholesterol under control. You can calculate your BMI and Healthy Weight at www.drbdiet.com/bmi-calculator.
- Get Regular Health Check-ups and Monitor Cholesterol and Blood Pressure High cholesterol, high blood pressure and being overweight or obese are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. You should be tested regularly to know if you have high blood cholesterol or high blood pressure. That is because elevated cholesterol and blood pressure have no warning signs until some damage has occurred.
- Follow a Healthy Eating Plan
- Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol that includes lots of fruits, vegetables and fat-free dairy products. Choose lean cuts of meat, trim all visible fat and throw away the fat that cooks out of the meat.
- Avoid saturated fats (found mostly in animal products) and trans-fatty acids (found in fast foods and commercially baked products). Instead, choose unsaturated fats
- Limit the following foods:
- Use a minimal amount of fats and oils, usually no more than 2 to 3 servings a day depending on your caloric needs.
- Use less salt and eat less salty foods.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Whole milk, cream and ice cream
- Butter, egg yolks and cheese — and foods made with them
- Organ meats like liver, sweetbreads and kidney
- High-fat processed meats like sausage, bologna, salami and hot dogs
- Best Practices When Cooking
- Use a rack to drain off fat when you broil, roast or bake.
- Don’t baste with drippings; use wine, fruit juice or marinade.
- Broil or grill instead of pan-frying.
- Cut off all visible fat from meat before cooking, and take all the skin off poultry pieces. (If you’re roasting a whole chicken or turkey, remove the skin after cooking.)
- Use a vegetable oil spray to brown or sauté foods.
- Serve smaller portions of higher-fat dishes, and serve bigger portions of lower-fat dishes like pasta, rice, beans and vegetables.
- Make recipes or egg dishes with egg whites or egg substitutes, not yolks.
- Instead of regular cheese, use low-fat cottage cheese, part-skim milk mozzarella and other fat-free or low-fat cheeses
- Exercise regularly to help raise your HDL (“good” cholesterol)
- Quit smoking
What are the warning signs of heart attack and stroke?
Warning signs of Heart Attack
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most of them start slowly with mild pain or discomfort with one or more of these symptoms:
- Chest discomfort
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
- Other signs including breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
Warning Signs of Stroke
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Learn to recognize a stroke. Time lost is brain lost.
Call 9-1-1 and get an ambulance immediately. Do not drive to the hospital and do not have someone drive the patient to the hospital. The paramedics can administer treatment in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Dr. Bernstein diet program is a medically supervised weight loss program which is a safe and effective method to lose body fat. Our specially-trained team of doctors and nurses will monitor your blood cholesterol and blood pressure on a regular basis as you lose weight.
The Diet is designed for anyone who needs to lose weight to lead a healthy life. With this diet program, over 90% of our patients stop the use of all cholesterol medication when they reach their expected goal weight. The program includes a restricted diet, with vitamin and mineral supplementation and behavioural and life style modification.