Your diet is an enviable one, full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, yet your cholesterol numbers aren’t reflecting these nutritional efforts. For the nearly 94 million people in the United States who have potentially problematic cholesterol levels, there are many reasons for the imbalance, and diet is only one piece of the overall puzzle.
In this month’s blog post, Dr. Madaiah Revana and the team here at Humble Cardiology Associates are going to take a closer look at why some people still struggle with cholesterol levels even though they eat healthy.
Cholesterol — it’s all about balance
Understanding your cholesterol levels isn’t all that simple, as we’re measuring several substances in your blood, as well as looking for a good balance between them.
When we do a basic cholesterol panel, we’re measuring low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), and triglycerides. Cholesterol carried by LDLs is known as bad cholesterol because it can build up in your arteries. HDLs are considered to be good, as their primary role is to carry the cholesterol to your liver for processing and flushing from your body. Triglycerides are fats in your blood that your body relies on for energy.
When we look at the measurements of each of these three, it’s not only important that they remain within certain ranges, but that the ratios between them are good. For example, you want enough HDLs to deal with the level of LDLs you have in your system. Making matters more complicated, triglycerides can join your LDLs and overwhelm the ability of your HDLs to keep cholesterol from building in your blood vessels.
Diet isn’t the only factor that affects cholesterol numbers
Now that we better understand what we’re measuring, let’s take a look at why your cholesterol levels can still be out of balance even though you’re taking pains to eat healthy.
First, we want to assure you that these efforts are extremely important in keeping your cholesterol in check so don’t abandon them for lack of results. The fact is that high LDL and triglyceride counts are largely a function of eating too many unhealthy fats and sugary foods, so any effort you make to avoid these dietary traps is well worth your while.
That said, if your HDL counts are low, you can have an LDL count that’s normal, but the ratio is such that you can still experience cholesterol buildup in your bloodstream. Factors that contribute to low HDL numbers are:
- Lack of exercise
- Insulin resistance
As well, you may have inherited a propensity for low HDL counts, which means you have to keep your LDL counts lower than most people. When this happens, diet alone may not be sufficient.
Speaking of inherited issues, another issue that can lead to elevated cholesterol is familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), which affects about 1 in 250 people. With FH, you have higher-than-normal levels of LDLs in your blood, even if you’re eating healthy.
Rebalancing and lowering your cholesterol numbers
If your cholesterol numbers are problematic and we know that diet isn’t the issue, we’ll look at other areas of your health and suggest a plan moving forward. For example, if you eat healthy, but you smoke, the dietary health benefits can be quickly canceled out by smoking. Or, perhaps your diet is great, but you lead a sedentary lifestyle. This lack of exercise can contribute to skewed cholesterol numbers.
So, keep up the healthy diet, which is benefitting your overall health in myriad ways, and let’s take targeted steps to improve your cholesterol numbers, which may include taking supplements and medications as well as making lifestyle changes.
To get started, schedule an appointment with us at one of our two offices in Humble or Houston, Texas, by clicking here.