Monday, December 26, 2011


Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipids (fats) in the
bloodstream and in all your body’s cells. For all the bad press it gets, the fact
is that you need cholesterol, because your body uses it to form cell membranes,
create hormones, and perform several other crucial maintenance operations.
But a high level of cholesterol in the blood—hypercholesterolemia—
is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack.
You get cholesterol in two ways. The body—mainly the liver—produces
varying amounts, usually about 1,000 milligrams a day. But when you consume
foods high in saturated fats—particularly trans fats—your body goes cholesterol
crazy, pumping out more than you could ever use. (Some foods also contain
cholesterol, especially egg yolks, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and
whole-milk dairy products. But the majority of it, and the stuff I want you to
focus on, is made by your own body.)
Some of the excess cholesterol in your bloodstream is removed from the
body through the liver. But some of it winds up exactly where you don’t
want it—along the walls of your arteries, where it combines with other substances
to form plaque. Plaque is wack for several reasons: First, it raises
blood pressure by making your heart work harder to get blood through your
suddenly narrower vessels, which can eventually wear out your ticker.
Second, plaque can break off its little perch and tumble through your bloodstream,
eventually forming a clot that can lead to stroke, paralysis, death,
and other annoyances.
Inside your body, a war is raging right now between two factions of specialized
sherpas called lipoproteins that are moving cholesterol around your insides
according to their own specialized agendas. There are several kinds,
but the ones to focus on are the Jekyll and Hyde of health, HDL (highdensity
or “helpful” lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density or “lazy” lipoprotein)
The good guy: HDL cholesterol. About one-fourth to one-third of blood
cholesterol is carried by helpful HDL. HDL wants to help you out by picking
up cholesterol and getting it the hell out of your bloodstream by carrying it
back to the liver, where it’s passed from the body. That’s good. Some experts
believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from plaques and thus
slows their growth. That’s really good. A high HDL level seems to protect
against heart attack. The opposite is also true: A low HDL level (less than
40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) indicates a greater risk. A low HDL cholesterol
level may also raise stroke risk.
W H Y T H E A B S D I E T ? A N D W H Y N O W ? 35
The bad guy: LDL cholesterol. Lazy LDL has no interest at all in helping you
out. LDL just wants to stick cholesterol in the most convenient place it can
find, meaning your arteries. LDL doesn’t care that too much cholesterol lining
your arteries causes a buildup of plaque, a condition known as atherosclerosis.
A high level of LDL cholesterol (160 mg/dL and above) reflects an increased
risk of heart disease. Lower levels of LDL cholesterol reflect a lower risk of
heart disease.
Simply put, HDL is trying to come to your aid, but LDL is just sitting there,
laughing at you. (I also heard it said something bad ‘bout your momma.) So
whose side are you on? If you want to give HDL a hand, start stocking up on
the Abs Diet Powerfoods, and follow the guidelines of the Abs Diet Workout.
Here are some more quick ideas on beating the bad guy for good.
Butt out. Tobacco smoking is one of the six major risk factors of heart disease
that you can change or treat. Smoking lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Drink up. In some studies, moderate use of alcohol is linked with higher HDL
(good) cholesterol levels. But take it easy there, Dino. People who consume
moderate amounts of alcohol (an average of one to two drinks per day for
men and one drink per day for women) have a lower risk of heart disease, but
increased consumption of alcohol can bring other health dangers, such as alcoholism,
high blood pressure, obesity, and cancer.
Johnny B good. A B vitamin called niacin reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol at the
same time it raises beneficial HDL. In fact, niacin can be more effective at
treating these things than popular cholesterol-busting drugs, which tend to
act more generally on total cholesterol and gross LDL. (Be careful, though.
While the niacin you get from foods and over-the-counter vitamins is fine,
super-high doses of niacin can have serious side effects and should be taken
only under a doctor’s supervision.)
Tea it up. Three recent studies confirm that drinking green tea can help lower
your cholesterol level and reduce your risk of developing cancer. In a 12-week
trial of 240 men and women, researchers at Vanderbilt University found that
drinking the equivalent of 7 cups of green tea a day can help lower LDL (bad)
cholesterol levels by 16 percent. Seven cups a day is a lot of tea, but even 1 or
2 cups a day could have a beneficial impact. Meanwhile, researchers at the
University of Rochester recently determined that green tea extract can help
prevent the growth of cancer cells, and Medical College of Ohio researchers
found that a compound called EGCG in green tea may help slow or stop the
progression of bladder cancer.
Go for the grapefruit. If you want to make one simple dietary change for
better health, the best thing you can do is eat a single white or ruby grapefruit

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