“Understanding Cholesterol”


Pick up any newspaper or magazine these days and you will find someone discussing high cholesterol. Recipes to lower your cholesterol, new studies, new drugs. Seems everyone is concerned with lowering his or her cholesterol count.


What exactly is this stuff called cholesterol? By medical definition it is a crystalline substance consisting of fats. It is found naturally in the brain, nerves, liver, blood, and bile. Cholesterol is necessary for the proper function of the body and is produced mainly in the liver. It is used by the cells to build membranes, certain hormones and aids in digestion. Cholesterol travels from the liver through the bloodstream where it is delivered to the cells. The cells take what they need, and the excess remains in the bloodstream. Excessive cholesterol forms a plaque like substance which sticks to the artery walls and may eventually cause heart disease or stroke.


Researchers have discovered there are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins or LDL and high density lipoproteins or HDL. The LDLs are the bad guys; HDLs are the good guys. HDLs actually work to remove excess cholesterol from the blood and tissues but their exact function is not clearly understood.


The National Cholesterol Education Program has set optimal standards of cholesterol at 200mg/dl. A reading above 200 indicates potential for developing heart disease. A level of 200-239 is borderline and those over 240 are at high risk. These levels are further broken down into HDL and LDL, but for our discussion these numbers are sufficient.


Traditional as well as holistic medicine agrees dietary changes are the best way to control your cholesterol levels. The Life Extension Foundation has recently done an extensive study on the new cholesterol lowering drugs. The findings are conclusive. They do indeed lower cholesterol levels, but at what price? Pharmacist and doctors also agree these drugs can carry some pretty hefty side effects including liver damage.


Here are some tips you may want to keep in mind if you are struggling with a high cholesterol count.

Š     Reduce meat and dairy intake

Š     Switch from polyunsaturated margarine and vegetable oils to high quality monounsaturated oils like cold pressed or extra virgin olive oil, safflower and sunflower oils

Š     Use fish oil, primrose or flax seed oils to decrease LDL and raise the HDL- these oils have been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol

Š     Use garlic and cayenne liberally in cooking

Š     The herbs Goldenseal and Hawthorne berry are also beneficial for lowering cholesterol

Š     The food supplement red rice yeast is excellent used alone or in conjunction with other herbs and supplements. Red rice yeast contains the natural equivalent of the statin drugs used to lower cholesterol without the side effects and is very effective in lowering cholesterol and trigylceride levels

Š     Natural foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits and are vital in the fight against high cholesterol.

Š     Vitamins A, C & E along with digestive enzymes are also useful.


If your cholesterol count is edging over the top these days, don’t wait until the doctor orders you on drugs that may risk your health. Try a gradual diet change letting go of fast foods, high fat foods and dairy. Work gradually into a diet of fresh foods, raw or lightly steamed, good oils and plenty of high quality water. Gradual dietary changes will more likely work without the worry of rebound that can lead to increased weight and even higher cholesterol counts. Till next time, Rebecca.