People get cholesterol in two ways. The body – mainly the liver – produces varying amounts, usually about 1,000 milligrams a day. Foods also can contain cholesterol. Foods from animals (especially egg yolks, meat, poultry, shellfish and whole- and reduced-fat
milk & dairy products) contain it. Foods from plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds) don’t contain cholesterol. Knowing which foods to avoid and which to include in your diet will not only improve cholesterol levels but will improve overall health as well.
A high level of LDL “bad” cholesterol can be dangerous because it puts a person at greater risk of hardened arteries (atherosclerosis) and coronary artery disease. If a blood test shows an elevated level of LDL cholesterol (130 milligrams per deciliter or higher), it is important to lower it to a healthier level.
According to experts, there are four basic ways to get your cholesterol where you want it:
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Losing weight
- Taking medicine
While each of these works, some people have more success with one than another. Many need a combination of approaches. No matter what your age or the state of your health, you can reduce your risks of serious problems by controlling your cholesterol.
The first step in increasing HDL cholesterol levels (and decreasing LDL/HDL ratios) is therapeutic life style changes. When these modifications are insufficient, medications are used. In prescribing medications or medication combinations, doctors have to take into account medication side effects, as well as the presence or absence of other abnormalities in cholesterol profiles.
Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Increased physical activity can have a modest effect on cholesterol, lowering triglycerides (and bad LDL cholesterol to a lesser extent), while boosting your good HDL cholesterol. Regular aerobic exercise, loss of excess weight (fat), and cessation of smoking cigarettes will increase HDL cholesterol levels. Regular alcohol consumption (such as one drink a day) will also raise HDL cholesterol. Because of other adverse health consequences of excessive alcohol consumption, alcohol is not recommended as a standard treatment for low HDL cholesterol.
Several types of medication can help, including statins which are usually the first choice for medicine. They block the effects of an enzyme that helps make cholesterol. They also lower bad cholesterol by a whopping 20-55%. They have a modest effect on triglycerides and give a mild boost to your good cholesterol.
Ezetimibe is a newer cholesterol-reducing medication that decreases how much cholesterol the body absorbs. It can lower bad cholesterol by up to 25%. Ezetimibe may be combined with a statin to boost the cholesterol lowering effects.