While you rarely hear about the benefits, cholesterol is not the arch enemy depicted by the media, and eating butter or egg yolks will not necessarily lead to your next heart attack. Of course, the adage “everything in moderation” does apply.
Cholesterol is essential—meaning one cannot live without it. It is a type of fat that is manufactured in the liver. In fact, more is made by the body than obtained from the diet. Cholesterol forms and maintains all cell membranes, provides insulation and helps them adjust to changing temperatures. It is used to make hormones such as testosterone, progesterone, estrogen and cortisol. It’s also involved in the production of bile salts which helps in digestion. Sunlight plus cholesterol equals vitamin D. HDL has gotten the reputation as the “good” cholesterol because it takes cholesterol from the cells and delivers it to the liver for processing. This lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
LDL is considered the bad cholesterol. LDL carries cholesterol to the cells—that’s good. LDL , when oxidized, can promote inflammation, causing fatty plaque formations on arterial walls and thereby leading to atherosclerosis—that’s bad. This increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease; however, there are several risk factors that often coincide with high LDL cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking.
Diet and Cholesterol
According to Dr. Agatston, a cardiologist made famous by his South Beach diet program, measuring a person’s calcium score (the amount of calcium in the walls of the arteries) is a much better predictor of heart attacks and strokes. He also recommends foods such as eggs and shrimp because, although they contain cholesterol, they do not contain saturated fats which have a stronger influence on LDL cholesterol levels. He has had patients with high cholesterol and clean arteries and others with low cholesterol and advanced atherosclerosis. This leads to the belief that every patient needs to be addressed as an individual and in relation to other lifestyle choices.
The following facts and studies illustrate further the myth that has surrounded cholesterol for decades. The facts are:
- Low levels of cholesterol have been associated with dementia and certain types of cancers.
- Studies have shown that after the age of 50 there is no correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease.
- 75 percent of individuals who have a heart attack have normal levels of cholesterol.
The Bottom Line
Making lifestyle choices that promote a healthy cardiovascular system includes minimizing saturated fats found in high-fat protein and dairy products, decreasing the intake of processed and prepared foods, much of which is produced with hydrogenated fats, and increasing one’s intake of fruits and vegetables. Scheduling a daily dose of exercise for at least 30 minutes is also recommended. Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption. To help your loved one make these changes, begin slow and take it one change at a time. Before you know it, they will be living a heart-healthy lifestyle and feeling the difference.
Senior Care Provider
If your loved one needs assistance with the everyday activities of living, consider obtaining the services of a senior care provider. In addition to daily tasks, they can prepare heart-healthy meals, accompany your parent on daily walks and provide the companionship that helps one through the hurdles associated with making lifestyle changes.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Lakewood, NJ, contact the caring staff at Care Street Home Care’s Ocean/Monmouth Division. Call today 732-719-7011.