Heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States. Lowering cholesterol levels corresponds to a 2:1 reduction of coronary heart disease. Stated in another manner, if you lower your total cholesterol levels by 25%, you reduce your chances of getting heart disease by 50%!
Cholesterol is usually described in units of mg/dl. Total blood cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dl are considered high and should prompt one to look at methods of lowering their cholesterol. This total blood cholesterol level is actually a combination of fractions obtained by measuring lipoproteins.
The LDL measurement stands for the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol which is regarded as the ‘bad cholesterol’ and one of the leading causes of coronary heart disease. LDL carries cholesterol through the bloodstream and deposits it on the walls of the arteries in a form of plaque. This reduces the circumference of the pipes (arteries) and puts undue strain on the pump (heart). This formation of plaque is referred to as atheroma, or the disease of atherosclerosis.
The HDL measurement refers to the high density lipoprotein cholesterol, or ‘good cholesterol’. This type of lipoprotein draws cholesterol and fat deposits away from the walls of the arteries and out of the body through waste, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Some blood tests also include a measurement of Triglyceride levels. While this measurement is not a factor in the cholesterol fraction, it is a measurement of another type of fat in the bloodstream and an important factor to track and reduce. While the correlation of triglycerides and cholesterol is not fully understood, scientists seem to agree that the lowering of triglycerides has resulted in an overall affect of lowering cholesterol.
So what does this has to do with your fitness plan? Exercise has been proven to lower body fat, stress, resting heart rate, and yes…has been linked to lowering cholesterol. If interested, a complete list of these studies and findings is summarized nicely in, The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure by Robert Kowalski. This publication, like many others stress the need for soluble fiber in our diets.
While, I did not follow the book’s 8-week program to the letter, I was able to lower my total blood cholesterol by over 25%. During this time in my fitness program by body fat% went from 20% to 12%. I’ll continue to update these stats in my continuing self-experiment, as there appears to be a correlation between body fat% reduction and lowering cholesterol levels – at least in my case.
If you happen to know your blood cholesterol level, track it. If you don’t know it, I would encourage you to have the simple blood test at your next medical check-up. These long-term good habits that you’re starting to build weave a web of benefits that impacts many aspects of your life. Keep up the good work!