High cholesterol is a common health concern that affects millions of people worldwide. Human bodies need cholesterol to function properly but when the levels of cholesterol in the blood become too high, it can lead to various health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Recognizing High Cholesterol
Many people walk around with high cholesterol and don’t even realize it. Even active people with a well-rounded diet can develop high cholesterol for various reasons. Because high cholesterol often has no symptoms, it is essential to have your cholesterol levels checked regularly. A blood test called a lipid profile can help determine your cholesterol levels. This test measures several types of fat in your blood, including total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides.
In general, the recommended total cholesterol level is less than 200 mg/dL. LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL, and HDL cholesterol should be at least 60 mg/dL. Triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL. If your cholesterol levels are higher than these numbers, it’s important to work with a doctor to reduce your levels.
Who is at Risk of Developing High Cholesterol?
- Unhealthy diet: Eating a diet high in saturated and trans fats, such as red meat, full-fat dairy products, and fried foods, can increase your cholesterol levels.
- Lack of exercise: Regular physical activity can help lower cholesterol levels and improve overall health.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase your cholesterol levels.
- Smoking: Smoking can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of developing high cholesterol.
- Family history: If you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, you may be at an increased risk.
Genetic High Cholesterol
Sometimes, high cholesterol is due to genetic factors and you may have high cholesterol despite your best efforts to eat a healthy diet, exercise, and avoid smoking. This condition is called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) and is passed down through families. People with FH have high levels of LDL cholesterol, and their bodies have difficulty removing cholesterol from the blood. FH can lead to heart disease and stroke. If you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, it’s essential to speak with your healthcare provider about getting tested for FH.
Managing and Treating High Cholesterol from a Naturopathic Perspective
Naturopathic medicine offers a holistic approach to managing and treating high cholesterol. Here are some naturopathic strategies that may help:
- Dietary changes: Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources can help lower cholesterol levels. Avoiding foods high in saturated and trans fats can also be beneficial.
- Regular exercise: Regular physical activity can help improve cholesterol levels and overall health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Herbal remedies: Several herbs may help improve cholesterol levels, including garlic, red yeast rice, and artichoke leaf extract. However, it’s important to speak with a naturopath before taking any herbal remedies.
- Supplements: Certain supplements may help lower cholesterol levels, such as omega-3 fatty acids, plant sterols, and psyllium husk. Again, it’s essential to speak with a healthcare provider before taking any supplements.