High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood may be caused by several factors, including regularly drinking too much alcohol, smoking, being overweight or obese, and having a poor diet. Unfortunately many of these factors are a result of the modern lifestyle that we live: you might say that having too much cholesterol is actually a disease of the 21st-century. The problem is that many of us lead our lives in the fast lane, running around at 100 miles an hour, taking little or no exercise, and eating fast, junk, foods as and when the opportunity permits. Our young people regularly drink to excess, and many of them smoke, as they think it is cool and grown-up to do so. Of course in reality this is far from the truth, as more and more adults appreciate the dangers that an inappropriate lifestyle can bring.
If you do suspect that you have high cholesterol and you go to visit your doctor, he/she will arrange for you to have a blood test. A blood test to establish the levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream will be a fasting test, and you will be instructed not to eat or drink anything (apart from water) for a period of 12 hours leading up to the actual test.
Unfortunately if you do have high cholesterol, there is a current and repetitive trend for doctors to recommend that you take a course of Statins. I say unfortunate because Statins are known to have serious side effects for many people, and it always surprises me when I hear that they have been recommended by a physician.
The side-effects I refer to include muscular pain and cramp, and liver disease. Statins are designed to interact with your liver depriving them of certain nutrients that can produce high levels of LDL-cholesterol, and it is this interference with normal liver function that can cause problems in some cases.
There are also other numerous side-effects that some people have reported, including a disruption to your libido, impairment of memory, personality and mood swings, and frequent fast irritability. You can perhaps now understand why being prescribed Statins to bring your cholesterol levels down surprises me so, particularly when you realise that once you begin to take them, you should continue to do so for the rest of your life.
But you do have options. There are other ways of bringing your cholesterol levels down, naturally, and free of charge, so surely it is a no-brainer! The methods I am referring to, are a carefully constructed diets, and regular physical exercise.
In terms of diets there are five effective foodstuffs that can help to lower cholesterol. I'll go over them briefly with you, but please bear in mind that these are in no particular order of importance, as they can all contribute equally towards helping you to reduce your levels of cholesterol.
Any food containing high-fibre, oat meal, and oat bran are winners. These all contain soluble fibre which is a substance that is found in oatmeal and barley, as well as vegetables such as kidney beans, and certain fruits including apples pears and prunes. Soluble fibre has the ability to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream.
Omega-3 is a widely publicised health food which is effective in helping to reduce blood pressure or hypertension, and is also helpful in the prevention of blood clots forming. You'll find Omega-3 in most oily fishes including Mackerel, Sardines, Trout, Halibut and Salmon. If you're not a fish lover then you can take omega-3 supplements, however you will be missing some of the natural nutrients that fish contains, such as selenium.
Nuts are also very good for you because they can help to keep your arteries in good health. Walnuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pistachios, and Pine Nuts are all highly recommended. But you must ensure they are not coated in either sugar or salt. Also please be aware that they are quite calorific, therefore the recommended daily allowance should not exceed 42 1/2 g.
The virtues of the Mediterranean diets are often extolled, and this is mostly because it contains olive oil. Olive oil is rich with powerful antioxidants that can lower bad cholesterol, especially extra-virgin olive oil which has been less processed than ordinary olive oil. When considering switching over to olive oil (two tablespoons per day is the recommended allowance) you should note that light olive oil is more heavily processed than extra virgin.
Finally any foods containing plant-based Sterols and Stanols which helped to block the absorption of bad cholesterol are also highly recommended. These foods include certain margarines, orange juice, and yoghurt drinks that contain added plant Sterols.
Keeping your cholesterol levels low will help you to protect your heart, and you should aim for a total cholesterol count of 5.0 if you are healthy, and 4.0 if you suffer from a cardiovascular problem.