All About Cholesterol: Understanding nutrition’s most controversial molecule. 

I have made a summary of important scientific data regarding cholesterol and health  including nutrition and lifestyle recommendations

You can read the whole article written by By Ryan Andrews from Precision Nutrition  Precision Nutrition/ All About Cholesterol 

I also used medical content from the NIH, US National Library Of Medicine: and Cholesterol Levels what you need to Know 

cholesterolCholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can combine with other substances in the blood and stick to the walls of your arteries. This is called plaque. Plaque can narrow your arteries or even block them.

There are two main types of cholesterol:

  • HDL stands for high-density lipoproteins. It is called the “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.
  • LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins. It is called the “bad” cholesterol because a high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.

High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of heart disease. Your cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. There are usually no signs or symptoms that you have high blood cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test.

You are likely to have high cholesterol if members of your family have it, if you are overweight or if you eat a lot of fatty foods.

Measuring Cholesterol Levels

Everyone age 20 and older should have his or her cholesterol measured at least once every five years. A blood test called a lipoprotein panel can help show whether you’re at risk for coronary heart disease by looking at substances in your blood that carry cholesterol. This blood test is done after a 9-to-12-hour fast (no eating) and gives information about your:

  • Total cholesterol–a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol–the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
  • HDL (good) cholesterol–HDL helps remove cholesterol from your arteries
  • Triglycerides–another form of fat in your blood that can raise your risk for heart disease

Risk Factors

Major Risk Factors That Affect Your LDL Goal

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher or on blood pressure medication)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL)
  • Family history of early heart disease (heart disease in father or brother before age 55; heart disease in mother or sister before age 65)
  • Age (men 45 years or older; women 55 years or older)

See how your cholesterol numbers compare to the table below:

Total Cholesterol Level


Less than 200mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high
240mg/dL and above High

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Level

LDL Cholesterol Category

Less than 100mg/dL Optimal
100-129mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very High

HDL (Good) Cholesterol Level

HDL Cholesterol Category

Less than 40 mg/dL A major risk factor for heart disease
40—59 mg/dL The higher, the better
60 mg/dL and higher Considered protective against heart disease

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What Affects Cholesterol Levels?

A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are things you can do something about:

  • Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise. Saturated fat is the main problem, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.
  • Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.
  • Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should aim to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.

Things outside of your control that also can affect cholesterol levels include:

  • Age and Gender. As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.
  • Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

How to control blood cholesterol ?


Summary of Life Style Change Recommendations

  1. Get and stay lean Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.
  2. Eat at least 10 servings of vegetables and fruits each day
  3. Eat whole grains each day
  4. Eat legumes each day
  5. Eat nuts/seeds each day
  6. Eat omega-3’s (algae or fish oils)
  7. Exercise at least 5 hours per week. Physical activity, even in 10-minute intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight
  8. Eat plenty of herbs and spices
  9. Limit highly saturated meat, processed foods, trans fats and high-fat dairy
  10. Drink green tea


Dietary cholesterol has minimal impact on blood cholesterol for most individuals. In general, eggs don’t seem to have a negative effect on blood cholesterol measures. Omega-3 eggs might even have a beneficial effect since they improve key blood proteins and decrease blood glucose.


With all supplements, don’t run out to the vitamin store and fill your pockets. Chat with your doctor first and consider what you really need.

  • Red rice yeast extract – This stuff actually contains the same ingredient found in statin drugs. This should be taken under your doctor’s supervision – powerful stuff. 600 to 1200 mg twice a day with food.
  • Omega-3 oils – Anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting. They can also help to convert small dense LDL particles into larger buoyant versions. That’s a good thing. 1 to 4 grams a day.
  • Niacin (vitamin B3) – This can increase HDL while decreasing LDL and Lp(a). Watch out for niacin-induced flushing, which is the result of vasodilatation. Decrease the flushing by taking the niacin with food or a small dose of aspirin. Too much B3 can cause liver stress and toxicity. 500 to 2000 mg daily with food.
  • L-carnitine – This stuff can help to control Lp(a). 1 gram twice per day can be helpful.
  • Plant sterols/stanols –These are found naturally in many plant foods and can trap dietary cholesterol in the gut, so it’s best to consume them with meals. We get approximately 200-500 mg of sterols and 20-60 mg of stanols in the average diet. Many foods are now being fortified with them (e.g., orange juice, margarine, etc.). 2 grams of sterols/stanols per day might be effective.



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About Anne Egros

Zest and Zen is a blog about Expat Life Challenges, Global Leadership, Intercultural Communication, Health and Wellness, Nutrition, Change Psychology, Life Transitions
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