Are you worried about your cholesterol? With high cholesterol linked to life-threatening heart disease, it’s good to be concerned. More than 102 million Americans have been diagnosed with high cholesterol. But what causes this serious condition? Could certain foods be the reason your cholesterol is on the rise?
At Tim Martin M.D., our providers help patients in Abilene, Texas, manage their high cholesterol as part of our comprehensive cardiovascular health services. Dr. Martin and our care team use your cholesterol readings to provide insight into your overall health and wellness. If your numbers are high, we can help you get them under control.
We also know that understanding what causes high cholesterol can help put the right tools for managing your health in your hands. Read on to learn whether foods cause high cholesterol and what you can do to stay healthy!
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol, a waxy fat, is produced by your body to help create hormones and produce bile. It also aids in the conversion of sunlight to vitamin D. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs to support essential body functions. In other words, most people don’t need to worry about eating cholesterol because you’ll always have enough
What is high cholesterol?
The trouble with cholesterol begins when you have more cholesterol than your body needs. However, not all cholesterol is created equal. If you’re been told you have “high” cholesterol, your doctor is probably referring to something called your LDL cholesterol.
Lipoproteins are specialized proteins used to transport cholesterol to cells throughout your body. We usually refer to the two types of lipoproteins involved in this process as “bad” and “good” cholesterols based on how they work in our bodies.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also called our “bad” cholesterol, distribute cholesterol and fat throughout your body to provide energy to your cells and help support important functions. LDL isn’t “bad” on its own, but when you have too much, it can cause buildup and narrow your arterial passageways, increasing your risk for developing heart disease.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are nicknamed the “good” cholesterol because they help lower your LDL by taking excess LDL back to the liver where it can be processed as waste. Your provider at Tim Martin MD looks for high HDL levels as these are linked to a lower risk of developing heart disease. Unfortunately, many people who are otherwise healthy don’t have strong HDL numbers because of a poor diet.
What causes high cholesterol?
Some people may have a genetic issue that increases their body’s natural cholesterol production called familial hypercholesterolemia. This condition raises the amount of LDL in your blood, increasing your risk of atherosclerotic heart disease.
Cholesterol levels may also increase with age as your liver becomes less able to process excess LDL. And if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you’re also at risk of elevated cholesterol.
For most people, however, lifestyle is by and large the biggest factor contributing to high cholesterol. Factors that elevate your LDL (bad) cholesterol include:
- Poor diet high in processed foods, animal-based products, trans fat, and saturated fat
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of exercise and physical activity
- Carrying excess weight in the abdomen
The role of food
High cholesterol results from a low-quality diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Animal products like eggs, cheese, milk, fish, and meat, naturally contain cholesterol and increase yours when you eat them.
You can work to manage your high cholesterol by focusing on foods that promote your healthy HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL levels. By eating more low-fat, plant-based foods, you can naturally moderate your cholesterol levels.
- Dark leafy greens, like kale or spinach
- Lean, plant-based proteins, such as beans and legumes
- Whole grains, like oats, quinoa, and barley
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like unsalted nuts and legumes
- Foods high in soluble fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Foods containing phytosterols, like Brussel sprouts, almonds, and wheat bran
- Soy protein, like tofu or tempeh
You’ll also want to make other healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, losing excess weight, maintaining regular physical activity, and eliminating or moderating alcohol use. The team at Tim Martin MD may also recommend prescription medication to manage your cholesterol if lifestyle changes aren’t enough.
To learn more about the link between diet and cholesterol or to find out what your cholesterol levels are, contact our Abilene, Texas, office, or request an appointment online now.