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Lower Cholesterol Glossary

 

As you begin to lower your cholesterol over the next thirty days, you’ll likely encounter new words and terms.

As you get used to these new concepts, feel free to turn to this glossary to help you recall what is what ...

Atherosclerosis

If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it will create a yellow thick substance on the lining of the blood vessels. This is known as atherosclerosis.

If it continues to grow, it can block blood vessels, leading to a stroke or heart attack. This is a key risk of having high bad cholesterol levels.

Blood Cholesterol

Blood cholesterol is a wax-like material that is made by the body. Blood cholesterol is needed to keep cells healthy, to create hormones, and to keep the body functioning. Too much, though, increases your risk of atherosclerosis.

Dietary Cholesterol

Dietary cholesterol is the cholesterol found in some of your food. Since all animals produce cholesterol, dietary cholesterol is found in the foods that are made from animals, such as meat, dairy products, fish, and eggs.

To stay heart-healthy, you will want to avoid eating too much dietary cholesterol.

Cholesterol Profile

Your cholesterol profile is a listing of your cholesterol levels. This includes your LDL, HDL, your total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Your doctor finds this information through a blood test. Your cholesterol profile helps medical professionals determine what your risk is for developing certain complications associated with high bad cholesterol levels.

Essential Fatty Acids

Your body needs fat to survive, and also to build cells. The fat your body needs to get from the food you eat are called essential fatty acids.

Fiber

Fiber is the part of plants that cannot be digested by us. There are two types of fiber - insoluble and soluble.

Both are important to keep your health. Insoluble fiber in grains and fruits and vegetables is what keeps you “regular” and keeps your bowels in good shape.

The soluble fiber found in oats, barley, and other plants has been found to lower cholesterol levels. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol and stay healthy, eating a diet with adequate fiber can help.

High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

This is known as the "good" cholesterol, and is generated by your liver. HDL transports cholesterol and fats to your liver from your arteries.

In the liver, the fat can be broken down or recycled for your body to use. If you have high levels of HDL, chances are your heart is healthy, since the cholesterol is being effectively transported rather than being left in your blood, where it can cause a hardening of the arteries.

If you have too low levels of HDL, you may be putting your heart at risk.

Hydrogenated Fats

These are fats you’ll want to avoid in your diet if you want to lower bad cholesterol levels. Hydrogenated fats are fats, either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated, that have been treated with hydrogen atoms to guarantee a longer shelf life.

The process of hydrogenation causes fats to become saturated fats.

Lipid Specialists

These doctors specialize in the treatment of treating high blood cholesterol and related health issues.

If you have very high cholesterol and traditional methods of lowering your cholesterol and risk for heart disease do not work, you may be referred to a lipid specialist for specialized treatment.

Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)

Also called "bad cholesterol", LDLs are manufactured by the liver. Its job it to transport fats, including cholesterol, from the liver to the areas of your body that need the fat, such as your organs, muscles, and your tissues.

If your LDL level is high, it means that there is plenty of cholesterol in your blood, which then increases the chances of clogged arteries, which in turn is very dangerous for your heart.

Monounsaturated Fats

These fats are liquids at room temperature. These fats are also good for you because they do not change your HDL (good cholesterol) levels but do lower your LDL (bad cholesterol levels). Look for products that have these fats if you want to stay heart-healthy. Monosaturated fats are found in olive and canola oil.

Omega_6

This is actually a "family" of fatty acids which increase your good cholesterol level while lowering your bad cholesterol. This makes Omega-6 a great food source for staying healthy.

You can find these fatty acids in nuts, grains, vegetables, and vegetable oils. They are part of the reason why you are likely encouraged to eat these foods in your low-cholesterol diet.

Polyunsaturated Fats

These fats are liquid at room temperature. They are a better choice than saturated fats, but they tend to lower both good and bad cholesterol levels, so they aren’t the best choice for good health. In small amounts, these fats may lower bad cholesterol.

Processed Foods

Processed foods are foods which have been treated before being sold. In some cases, processed foods are treated to eliminate bacteria or make food healthier.

For example, the process of pasteurization eliminates some of the harmful elements in milk that can make us sick.

Most of our foods are processed in some way. However, some foods are processed in order to change their taste or in order to give them a longer shelf-life.

The processing that it takes to do this sometimes involves adding fat, salt and other unhealthy ingredients or involves heating the foods until some or much of the nutrient value is lost.

When choosing processed foods, it’s important to choose foods that have as few detrimental ingredients as possible. Generally, foods that have had more done to them, such as deli meats, potato chips, cookies, and others, and food which is considered “fast food” or convenience food (for example hamburgers, prepared hors d’oeuvres, and cocktail snacks, etc.) are higher in fats and salt.

Read the labels of all processed foods to understand exactly what you are eating and how these foods can affect your health.

Saturated Fats

These fats are solid at room temperature. They are also the most likely to raise your bad cholesterol. Actually, they are a bigger culprit than dietary cholesterol.

If you want to lower your cholesterol, avoid these fats in your food. In many cases, saturated fats come from animal proteins and products, i.e. meats, and milk products. They are also found in hydrogenated vegetable oil and in coconut and palm oil.

Trans-Fatty Acids

These are another fat group you will want to avoid. They are hydrogenated and increase bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a fat – similar to cholesterol - which is transported into the blood stream. This fat is the culprit behind most of the fat in the body. Like LDL-cholesterol, it can form a thick gooey substance which can block the arteries if there is too much of it in the blood.

As you lower your bad cholesterol, you’ll also want to keep your triglycerides low. Often, high triglycerides are caused by too much alcohol use, overeating or being overweight, and not getting enough physical exercise.

Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL)

These lipoproteins transport cholesterol from the liver to the body organs and tissues that need it.

Studies have shown that high levels of these lipoproteins may be a risk factor for heart disease. Not all cholesterol profiles include a number for VLDLs, but if yours does, work to keep the levels low.

 

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