Most of the concern about the safety of nitrates has arisen from epidemiological data on their potential to form N-Nitrosamines; these are thought to be cancer causing and also responsible for causing “blue-baby” syndrome. However, one must be careful in evaluating the data and when drawing any conclusions. Let us review the data for both these concerns. i) Blue-baby syndrome (methemoglobinemia) One case back in the 1950’s caused considerable sensation when a baby’s hemoglobin was thought to be compromised by supposedly excessive nitrates in well water and converting the hemoglobin to a form that was not able to transport oxygen easily.
Linked not only to a healthy heart, but also to better overall health in general, cholesterol is an extremely important part of our internal makeup and understanding how to manage both “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels can lead to a longer, healthier life.
As we age, managing cholesterol becomes not only more important but also more difficult. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that men with less than optimal aerobic fitness are at a greater risk of developing high cholesterol in their early 30s, while men with higher aerobic fitness are likely to avoid this until their mid-40s. This is to say, the longer you wait to care about your cholesterol levels, the less control you have over them.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat like substance naturally produced in your liver and is essential for your cells to properly function and produce hormones, vitamin D and substances that help you properly digest food.
Cholesterol is also brought into the body through foods like eggs, meat and cheese. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol, LDL cholesterol otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol otherwise known as “good” cholesterol.
Having to much LDL cholesterol can lead to formations with other substances, which causes hard deposits to form inside your arteries – leading to an increased chance of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol has no symptoms; so many people don’t know that their cholesterol is too high. A simple blood test can check cholesterol levels.
Managing Your Cholesterol
Controlling your cholesterol levels is composed of a balance of lifestyle and dietary changes. The earlier in your life you decide to manage your cholesterol levels, the more impact the changes will have.
Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise HDL or your good cholesterol. Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day can help you begin to lose weight.
Quitting smoking also helps improves your HDL cholesterol level. The benefits occur quickly; within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike, within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve, and within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
Making only a few changes in your diet can lead to many changes in your overall cholesterol levels.
- Eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids. Published data supports omega-3 fatty acid levels as a modifiable risk factor for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.1,2. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds.
- Increase soluble fibre. Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fibre is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.
- Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats raise your total cholesterol levels. Lowering your intake of saturated fats can help reduce your LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Saturated fats are commonly found in red meats and full-fat dairy products.
- Reduce trans fats. Trans fats, otherwise known as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are typically found in margarines and store bought baked goods. Trans fats are also responsible for raising bad cholesterol levels.
Supplementing to Help Cholesterol
The use of supplements can also aid in overall cholesterol control, especially in cases when they are paired with dietary and lifestyle changes.
- Red Yeast Rice (RYR) – Used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine for cardiovascular support.
- Cholesterol Control – Contains a proprietary extract of bergamot, which has been researched thoroughly for its cardiovascular benefits.
- AMLA – Helps to reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels as well as an anti-inflammatory and antacid.
1. Albert CM et al. Blood levels of long chain n-3 fatty acids and the risk of sudden death. NEJM. 2002;346(15):1113-1118
2. Harris WS. The Omega-3 Index: Clinical Utility for Therapeutic Intervention. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2010;12:503-508