Heart disease and high cholesterol are some of the most prevalent health concerns in our country today. One of the things that all of us should be concerned with in our quest to live long and healthy lives is our cholesterol levels. Out of control cholesterol is a leading contributor to heart disease, blood clots and stroke.
Cholesterol comes in two forms. HDL cholesterol or (high density lipoproteins) is what we refer to as “good cholesterol”. HDL cholesterol actually carries bad cholesterol away from the heart and deposits it to the liver so that it can pass from the body. High levels of this type of cholesterol protect you from heart disease. If your levels of this type of cholesterol are too low, the bad cholesterol is allowed to take over.
LDL cholesterol (low density lipoproteins) is the “bad cholesterol”. When too much LDL circulates in the blood, it can build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. It forms plaque, a hard substance that clogs the arteries. This is what we call atherosclerosis. These narrowed arteries make it for a clot to cause a blockage. When an artery is blocked, this can cause heart attack or stroke. Part of the “hardening” process in LDL is what is known as peroxidation. It is this process that turns the LDL into plaque.
It’s critical for all of us to know our cholesterol levels and make sure that we have high levels of HDL and low levels of LDL. You can significantly affect your cholesterol levels by with lifestyle choices; though some people are just genetically inclined to have high LDL levels. If you fall into this category, you may need medication along with lifestyle changes to get your cholesterol under control. See your doctor for a blood test to determine your cholesterol levels.
How Can I Improve My Cholesterol Levels?
If you know that your cholesterol numbers could use some improvement, there are many things you can do to improve those numbers. Here are the basics
Exercise – Just 30 minutes of walking, 3-5 times a week can help bring your cholesterol numbers in line.
Lose weight if you’re overweight – Overweight people tend to have higher LDL levels. Taking the weight off can improve these numbers.
Don’t smoke – Smoking contributes to high LDL levels and to low HDL levels.
Managing Your Diet
Diet is the most important factor in controlling your cholesterol levels. Whether or not you need to lose weight, a healthy diet is critical to maintaining good cholesterol levels. Here are the diet basics you should follow.
Reduce the amount of red meat in your diet. Opt for chicken, fish and turkey more often; beef and pork just once or twice a week. Use egg substitutes or egg whites rather than egg yolks.
Choose low fat options – Drink skim or 1% milk. Choose low fat cheese, yogurt and sour cream.
Increase your whole grains – Replace simple, white flower based products with whole grains. Oatmeal and whole wheat are great options.
Increase your fruits and vegetables – Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and fiber. They fill you up on fewer calories, so you can eat less and lose weight. They are also filled with anti-oxidants, which can prevent disease by combating our body’s free radicals. For the highest levels of anti-oxidants, be sure to eat your share of blueberries, red beans, artichokes and tomatoes.
Use good fats – We all need fat in our diets, but the types of fat we choose are important. Stay away from anything that says “hydrogenated”. Don’t use lard, butter or hard shortenings. Stay away from anything that contains “trans fats”. Use olive oil, flaxseed oil and canola oil as your primary fats. These good fats can help raise your HDL levels, without elevating your LDL levels in the process.
Add Green Tea to your diet – Green tea is one of the most under-recognized health protectors. Green tea is rich in anti-oxidants, just like fruits and vegetables. There have been many studies that have concluded that green tea’s anti-oxidants have a powerful influence in preventing heart disease.
One study, in particular is worth noting. The University of Shizuoka in Japan conducted a study on green tea and its ability to prevent atherosclerosis. In this study, some mice were fed green tea extract in their drinking water, while other mice were fed water without green tea added. All of the mice were fed a diet high in saturated fats and other products known to raise bad cholesterol.
After about eight weeks, the mice who were fed green tea showed significantly less propensity to have atherosclerosis. * While the high level of LDL could still be spotted in the blood, it was not being converted to plaque.
The study concluded that green tea has the ability, likely because of its high anti-oxidant level, to prevent the peroxidation of the LDLs. So, even when the diet was higher than normal in “bad cholesterol” foods, the green tea seemed to prevent this cholesterol in the blood from turning into artery blocking plaque.
Now, this doesn’t mean that it’s ok to eat a diet high in fat and cholesterol and rely on green tea to take care of the problem. However, it does indicate that green tea may be highly effective at preventing the bad cholesterol that we do ingest from turning into arterial plaque.
So, for the best plan for preventing heart disease and stroke, it’s wise to follow a low cholesterol diet, maintain a healthy weight and get regular exercise. But, it’s also wise to add green tea to your diet. It may give you an extra edge to winning the cholesterol battle!
Jon M. Stout is the Chairman of the Golden Moon Tea Company. Golden Moon Tea carefully selects the finest rare and orthodox teas, which are processed slowly and handcrafted with extreme care. At their website, you can learn more about their current tea offerings, including their exceptional green tea , white tea, black tea, oolong tea (also known as wu-long and wu long tea ) and chai. Visit goldenmoontea.com for all details concerning the Golden Moon Tea Company's fine line of teas.