*Every cell in your body is covered by a membrane made largely of cholesterol, fat and protein. Without adequate cholesterol, cell membranes become too fluid, and not rigid enough. If your cell membranes suddenly became totally devoid of cholesterol, your cells would explode from their internal water pressure like over-filled water balloons. Brain cells are particularly rich in cholesterol, the brain being about 7% cholesterol.

One of cholesterol’s most important functions is to serve as the basic raw material from which your body makes many major hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisone and aldosterone. Without these first three hormones you would have no sex life; without cortisone your body could not cope with stress; and without aldosterone your body could not properly balance your sodium and water levels.

Large amounts of cholesterol are found in the skin, where it makes the skin highly resistant to the absorption of water-soluble toxins. The skin’s cholesterol also helps hold water in the body, so that loss of water through skin evaporation is only about half to one pint daily, instead of the four to ten quarts of water which would be lost if not for skin cholesterol.  Even your solid bones would be hollow and brittle, if not for cholesterol.

As much as 70% of the body’s cholesterol is used by the liver to produce bile salts, used during food digestion to emulsify fats.

Your liver makes not only cholesterol, but also two main carrier molecules, LDL and HDL, which bind with cholesterol. Without help them, cholesterol could not travel through the blood stream. LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) carries cholesterol out to all the tissues in the body, where it may be used for various functions, including production and repair of cell membranes, as well as hormone production. Unfortunately LDL-bound cholesterol also tends to stick to damaged artery linings, where it may accumulate, eventually plugging up the arteries and blocking blood flow. This is why LDL cholesterol often is referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

About one-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol, because high levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attack. Triglyceride is a form of fat made in the body. Elevated triglycerides can be due to overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates.

Blood cholesterol levels should ideally be under 200. However, it is also important to remember that the connection between blood cholesterol levels and heart disease is a statistical phenomenon, only truly accurate when applied to estimating heart health risks of large groups of suffer a heart attack, while 15% of all fatal heart attacks will occur in people whose cholesterol were under the current “magic” number of 200.

The following lifestyle measures can be helpful in lowering total and LDL cholesterol, while raising HDL cholesterol.

  • Regular aerobic exercise: jogging, brisk walking, bicycling, etc.
  • Reducing dietary saturated fats and simple sugars, the two foodstuffs your liver is an expert at turning into blood cholesterol.
  • No smoking and minimal alcohol intake.
  • A high fiber diet: whole grains, beans, peas, lentils and fresh vegetables.
  • Using olive oil as the primary salad and cooking oil, or flaxseed oil. These oils are high in monosaturated fats which contribute to the elevation of HDL and the apparent reduction of LDL cholesterol.
  • Maintaining proper weight. This is best done by exercise and low-fat foods.
  • Frequent consumption of fish that are rich in the fatty acids EPA and DHA, such as sardines, salmon or cod, or of EPA/DHA rich fish oil capsules.
  • Avoid animal foods fried in oil.

Suggested Nutrients For Healthy Hearts :

Coenzyme Q 10 (CoQ10)- an essential nutrient needed for production of energy in every cell. It normally diminishes as we age which makes supplementation wise, even in healthy people. CoQ10 provides many benefits; a few of those being immune system enhancement, antiaging, circulatory support, tissue oxygenation, antihistamine properties, tumor reduction in cancer, strengthens the heart muscle, and improves blood pressure, treats gum disease, and more.

Vitamin C– Vitamin C helps rebuild collagen for arterial wall integrity and prevention of plaque build-up. It helps reduce inflammation in the body which lowers CRP levels. CRP levels are an indicator of  inflammation in the body.

Grape Seed Extract– It promotes healthy circulation and protects cells from free radical damage.. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. Grape seed extract is one of only a few that can penetrate the blood brain barrier to protect the brain and nerve tissue.

Omega-3/6 Fatty Acids.  They help reduce heart beat irregularities and blood clots, and help to normalize blood pressure.

B Vitamins– a combo of B6, B12, and Folic Acid, which help reduce homocysteine- a known risk factor for heart disease.

Vitamin E– It’s been said that “E” is for Everything. It not only protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, but protects ALL organ tissues from oxidation.

Magnesium– Helps control heart rhythm and blood pressure, and protects the lining of arteries.

Alpha-lipoic Acid  (ALA)– Has powerful antioxidant properties. It is a valuable free radical scavenger since it is both water AND fat soluble.   It, inhibits inflammation and plaque build-up, and works with magnesium to control blood pressure and reduce insulin sensitivity in diabetics.

Green Tea Extract– has antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral activity. It lowers LDL cholesterol, prevents clotting, and also plays a role in Cancer prevention.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician.  It is neither intended, nor implied, to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

Glenn Ellis, author of Which Doctor?, is a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics

For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com