If you’ve ever tried keeping track of your dietary intake, you’ve probably heard the terms “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.” When it comes to taking an active interest in the composition of your food, cholesterol is usually one of those areas people think about, but it can be hard to track. In order to keep a handle on your good and bad cholesterol levels, the best method is to maintain a healthy diet. Here’s some information to inform your dietary decisions and improve your health!
How Can You Tell?
Unlike hormonal changes that result from having too much or too little of a hormone, having higher or lower cholesterol is typically not noticeable until something major occurs like a heart attack or stroke. The only way to know for sure if your cholesterol is too high is to take a blood test. Professionals recommend getting a cholesterol test every 4 to 6 years after you turn 20 years old.
The Bad: Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
LDL is the kind of cholesterol that sticks in your body more stubbornly and can cause problems in higher amounts. When LDL levels are too high in your blood, it can start to stick to the sides of your arteries and lead to an increase of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and a variety of other issues. LDL cholesterol dense foods like fried foods, fast foods, heavily processed meats, and desserts are huge factors in raised “bad cholesterol” levels.
The problem is that once this cholesterol begins to stick to your blood vessels, it’s hard to remove it without medication. If you find out you have high or elevated LDL cholesterol levels, you should talk with your doctor about how to handle that moving forward. It is possible to make lifestyle changes that result in a better outlook in the future however!
Sources of LDL
- Fast Foods
- Deep-Fried Meat and Cheese
- High-Sugar Low-Nutrition Foods
- Processed Meats (sausages, hot dogs, bacon)
- Fatty Desserts
The Good: High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
Sources of HDL
- Fatty Fish (salmon, rainbow trout, albacore tuna)
- High-Fiber Fruit
- Whole Grains
Having a higher HDL level is actually a good thing. HDL carries LDL to different parts of the body where they can be broken down and used. Without HDL, LDL can start to build up. The key to improving your “good cholesterol” is to eat foods that have significant nutrients attached to them. Eggs, shellfish, and lean protein-rich red meats are some such foods.
By incorporating more olive oil, beans, high-fiber fruit, and fatty fish into your diet, you’ll raise your HDL levels and thus take solid steps towards improving your health. These foods are chock full of the right kinds of fat and cholesterol that your body needs. Studies have found that higher HDL levels can lead to a lowered risk of heart disease, stroke, and hardening of the arteries.
Can Hormones Affect Cholesterol?
Hormones affect how the body regulates itself and cholesterol levels are definitely affected by the amount of certain hormones within the body. Estrogen levels especially can create a fluctuation in HDL and LDL cholesterol in the body. Throughout a menstrual cycle hormone levels can fluctuate as much as 19 percent as levels of hormones shift in the body.
Thyroid hormone can also affect how your body goes about storing or transporting cholesterol. If you have elevated levels of one of these, it could very well affect levels of the others. Talking to your doctor or a healthcare professional is the best way to determine how to proceed with your health in regards to your cholesterol.
Studies have found that with continued hormone replacement therapy, LDL levels have been improved, so talk to your doctor about this as a possibility!
Talk To Your Doctor
By planning on talking to your doctor, you can schedule the necessary blood tests, check on hormone levels, and discuss lifestyle changes to improve your overall health. Talking to your doctor or medical professional early on, it’s possible to identify these issues before they become long term problems. It’s also the only way to address existing cholesterol buildup so that you can move forward with a healthier and happier lifestyle.