Eat Your Way To Healthier Cholesterol

The bad news--the leading cause of death in the United States is cardiovascular disease (CVD). The good news--CVD is preventable. Mother Nature provides natural nutrients found in common foods that can help reduce LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, and maintain healthy liver metabolism. Yep, you can eat your way to healthier cholesterol and keep it there.

By reducing habits that put a higher strain on your cardiovascular system, such as smoking, heavy drinking, eating high fat and high cholesterol foods, and stress, and by increasing habits that are good for your heart, such as good dietary choices and regular exercise, the risk of CVD can be significantly decreased. Early CVD is characterized by atherosclerosis, the formation of plaques within the arterial walls that interfere with coronary and cerebral circulation. The leading cause of atherosclerosis is hyperlipidemia, the elevation of lipids in the blood, most often due to diet and lifestyle. One of these lipids is cholesterol, which due to its insolubility in the blood, is transported around the body by two different lipoproteins--Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) and High Density Lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is referred to as "bad" cholesterol because it transports cholesterol to the arteries, which when oxidized, causes the formation of plaques on the arterial walls. HDL is referred to as "good" cholesterol because it carriers cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver where it is removed. Healthy liver metabolism is essential for cholesterol removal. Fortunately, there are many vitamins, minerals and natural ingredients that help reduce LDL, raise HDL levels and promote a healthy liver. A health strategy that includes these natural ingredients, a proper diet, and increased exercise can cut your risk for CVD, heart attack and stroke.

Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is within everyone's control--it is a matter of making healthy choices. Natural food nutrients can regulate cholesterol synthesis, prevent cholesterol transportation to the arteries, and reduce inflammation, which increases plaque build-up. Antioxidant compounds can help control oxidation of LDL and, therefore, reduce plaque formation in the arteries. Nutrients found in a healthy diet or natural supplements can be a first defense in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and improving your heart health.

Vitamin supplementation plays a crucial role in lowering LDL levels and reducing risk of heart disease. In addition to their antioxidant activity, a combination of Vitamin E and C has shown positive results in decreasing carotid artery IMT (intima-media thickness), a marker of early atherosclerosis. Niacin (vitamin B3) has been used for decades to lower the plasma concentrations of cholesterol, free fatty acids, and triglycerides in humans, and has been shown to raise levels of the protective high-density lipoprotein by up to 35%. Recent research suggests niacin's anti-inflammatory properties also help in reducing atherosclerosis. A combination of the B Complex vitamins, vitamins B6, folic acid and B12, aids the body in processing homocysteine, an amino acid-like compound that, at elevated levels, increases the risk for heart disease.

Green Tea Extract contains naturally occurring anti-oxidant compounds called polyphenols, and green tea's cardio-protective properties are well established. Studies have linked green tea to the lowering of LDL cholesterol and serum triglycerides, while elevating HDL levels and inhibiting platelet aggregation. Green tea also inhibits the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which prevents certain enzymes in the body from constricting blood vessels. This helps to lower blood pressure and makes the heart beat stronger.

Policosanols are a mixture of fatty alcohols derived from the waxes of such plants as sugar cane and yams, as well as beeswax. These powerful natural substances have been linked to significantly lowering LDL and increasing HDL, and in some cases with as little as 5-10 mg taken per day. One study suggests Policosanols may also reduce platelet aggregation, endothelial damage, and decrease total cholesterol and
LDL levels.

Medicinal mushrooms, also used in Traditional Chinese medicine to promote health and longevity, lower the risk of cancer and heart disease and boost the immune system. Research specific to mushrooms and cardiovascular health, provide various mechanisms to help lower cholesterol. Maitake mushrooms alter lipid metabolism by inhibiting both the accumulation of liver lipids and the elevation of serum lipids. Reishi mushrooms inhibit cholesterol synthesis, and Cordyceps mushrooms prevent cholesterol deposition in the aorta by inhibition of LDL oxidation via an antioxidant mechanism.

Phytosterols, such as beta sitosterol, have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol, which, therefore, allows them to compete with cholesterol for transportation. More than 50 years of research has proven that phytosterols are highly effective in lowering cholesterol levels in animals. Numerous human studies have also shown the positive effects of plant sterols in humans. A recent review from the Mayo Clinic concluded that increased consumption of plant sterols lowered LDL levels by 20%. Combining soy lecithin with phytosterols may further reduce cholesterol absorption.

Studies have shown that the active compounds found in guggul, such as guggulsterone, are antagonist ligands for the bile acid receptor farnesoid X receptor (FXR), which is an important regulator in cholesterol homeostasis. Guggul Extract is derived from the gum resin of the guggul tree, which grows in the dry regions of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Guggul has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 2000 years to treat a number of disorders, including inflammation and lipid imbalances. In a recent in vitro study, guggul and guggulsterone were shown to significantly inhibit LDL oxidation.

HMG-CoA reductase is necessary for cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Red yeast rice forms naturally occurring hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMG-CoA reductase) inhibitors. Red Yeast Rice has been used in China for centuries as both food and medicine. It is made by fermenting yeast over red rice. As a result, the medicinal properties of red yeast rice favorably impact lipid profiles of hypercholesterolemic patients.

Vitamin supplementation plays a crucial role in lowering LDL levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is within everyone's control--it is a matter of making healthy choices, and believe me, those choices are out there!

Posted June 2008 | Permanent Link

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