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Nearly 105 million Americans have high cholesterol. Many have never been diagnosed, while significant numbers who have been diagnosed go untreated. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance created in the liver. Additional cholesterol is introduced into the body through animal food products like eggs, meat and dairy. While a small amount is needed by the body, too much cholesterol can lead to coronary disease ultimately resulting in heart attack or stroke. Each year more than 930,000 Americans die from heart attack or stroke.
What are the different types of cholesterol? Scientists identify several types of cholesterol. Normal total cholesterol level should measure below 200 mg/dl. When total cholesterol is higher than 200 mg/dl, doctors term the condition "hypercholesterolemia," a big word for high cholesterol. Low density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol is often referred to as bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol causes the plaque build up leading to stroke or heart attack. A level below 100 mg/dl is desirable. High density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol is good cholesterol helping the body rid itself of bad cholesterol. Your goal is to raise the level of HDL cholesterol to above 60 mg/dl for optimal protection. Men should have HDL levels at least above 40 mg/dl and women above 50 mg/dl. Triglycerides are often overlooked when considering cholesterol. In the body, excess calories, alcohol, and sugar are converted to a type of fat called triglycerides. High triglyceride levels (above 150 mg/dl) also can have a negative effect on the body.
How can you lower cholesterol? Lowering cholesterol usually takes a combination of approaches. Diet, weight, exercise, gender, age, and heredity all affect cholesterol. A healthy cholesterol diet is low in fat particularly animal sources. Losing weight and exercising regularly will also help lower cholesterol.
In recent years a new class of drugs called statins has been introduced to fight high cholesterol. These have been used with increasing frequency and with relatively good success although there have been reports of negative side effects in a number of cases. Many individuals seek ways of reducing cholesterol naturally. For many years doctors have recommended niacin (Vitamin B3) to patients with high cholesterol. Also soluble fiber has proven an effective way of lowering cholesterol naturally. Lower cholesterol levels have also resulted from Red Yeast Rice, a Chinese remedy used for centuries. Red Yeast Rice contains an element very similar to a popular statin drug currently on the market. Policosanol, derived from the coating on sugar cane, shows great promise for reducing cholesterol as does sytrinol, a natural derivative of citrus and palm fruit.
High cholesterol cannot be ignored. You should have your cholesterol levels checked beginning at age 20 and every 5 years thereafter. In consultation with your doctor determine the best approach to lowering high cholesterol levels. Diet, exercise, and natural supplements can help support healthy cholesterol levels.
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