Cheerios: Helping to lower cholesterol. We’ve all seen the ads, informing us that eating well can help lower cholesterol levels. However, a bowl of oats isn’t all it takes to keep your body healthy. In order to lower your cholesterol levels, we must understand what cholesterol is and what exactly those levels mean.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by your liver and found in certain foods. Your body uses it to make hormones, digest food, and support the cells in your body, but it doesn’t need a large amount. High cholesterol occurs when you consume foods with a lot of cholesterol and the level of cholesterol in your body goes above what your body needs.

Too much cholesterol in your body can lead to serious problems like heart disease. Cholesterol flows through your blood stream, but it does not mix with blood. Instead, cholesterol travels through your body in small packages called lipoproteins, which are made of fat lipids on the inside and proteins on the outside. There are two different kinds of lipoproteins, and your body should have healthy levels of both. Meaning, you should have both low-density lipoproteins (LDL) as well as high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

LDL carries cholesterol to the cells in your body, especially to the arteries that supply blood to your heart. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood, the greater your chances are of being affected by heart disease.

HDL carries cholesterol away from the cells in your body and helps remove cholesterol from your artery walls. The higher the HDL level is, the lower your chances are of being affected by heart disease.

Not only can high cholesterol increase your chances of heart disease, but it also results in a dangerous build up of plaque, which can lead to even more problems:

  • Artherosclerosis: This occurs when your arteries harden and block the flow of blood to your heart
  • Coronary Heart Disease: The coronary arteries bring blood to your heart. When plaque builds up in these arteries, you may not be able to get enough oxygen to your heart
  • Angina: Angina is another term for chest pains that occur when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood from the lungs
  • Heart Attack: If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form over them. This clot can block the circulation of blood through the artery, causing a heart attack

You can control your cholesterol levels by monitoring what you eat, your weight, and your activity level. While it is hard to avoid cholesterol all together, there are things you can do to keep your levels down:

  • Limit the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat
  • Make sure you are not eating too many calories in a day
  • Eat a sufficient amount of fiber
  • If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your cholesterol
  • Try to get at least a small amount of physical activity each day
  • Talk to your doctor about a prescription that can work for you
  • Last but not least – eat your cheerios!

Sources:
http://nihseniorhealth.gov/
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/Cholesterol_UCM_001089_SubHomePage.jsp