Keep Cholesterol in Check

Garlic and other foods can help you battle the unseen dangers of the cholesterol.

| August/September 2005

We’ve all known loved ones and friends who have battled high cholesterol, but exactly what is it? Broadly speaking, cholesterol itself is not evil. Our livers manufacture cholesterol — whether or not we eat any — because our bodies need it to maintain healthy cells and to make hormones. Most of us, aside from strict vegetarians, also get a good deal of cholesterol by way of red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Cholesterol is shuttled within the body by lipoproteins (carriers made of fat plus protein). Low-density lipoproteins (LDL; also known as “bad” cholesterol) transport cholesterol to our tissues: This is the type of cholesterol you want to lower. High-density lipoproteins (HDL; “good” cholesterol) transport cholesterol from the tissues to the liver, where it is metabolized and excreted into the intestinal tract.

About 102 million American adults have total cholesterol levels that are borderline high — 200 to 239 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) — and 41 million have levels that are definitely high — more than 240 mg/dL. Some people are genetically unlucky — their bodies simply make too much cholesterol. For the majority of us, though, high cholesterol stems from our lifestyles.

High levels of LDL cholesterol eventually will contribute to atherosclerosis — the result of fatty deposits, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and other substances gradually building up in the inner lining of an artery. Atherosclerosis, which comes from the Greek words athero (meaning gruel or paste) and sclerosis (hardness), is a disease that hardens arteries as we age and reduces the blood flow through our arteries.

Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks and strokes, which makes it the leading cause of death in Americans older than 45. However, keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level can help keep your arteries in good condition, and therefore, it is one of the most important factors in maintaining good health.

Many different treatments can help control cholesterol, including prescription drugs and herbal supplements, but other steps are simple lifestyle changes that will benefit anyone who wants a healthier heart.

3/12/2007 1:26:03 PM

I lowered my cholesterol by changing my cooking and salad oil to rice bran oil. I like the neutral flavor and high smoke point. I also started exercising more.

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