In one of our previous articles, we wrote about the beneficial effects certain dietary habits can have for our general and oral health. A subject of conversation obviously related to this is cholesterol. We have all used or heard phrases like: “You shouldn’t eat that, it’s bad for your cholesterol!” or “Mind your cholesterol!”. It is also one of the most rigorously studied topics when it comes to diet and health, and an important aspect of lifestyle advise to combat for example cardiovascular disease. But how was it again, is cholesterol always bad for you? Isn’t there such a thing as “good” and “bad” cholesterol? Let us dig into the different types of cholesterol a bit more.
The first step in combatting cholesterol is to get to know “LDL” and “HDL”
To answer the first question: no, cholesterol is not always bad for you. In fact, it is an essential component of the cells in your body. So, what is all the fuss about? This has to do with the second question we asked ourselves: is there “good” and “bad” cholesterol? Anyone who has had a recent health check-up might have noticed that the test result shows you LDL and HDL cholesterol. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein and is considered “the bad one”. In a healthy situation, LDL cholesterol plays an important role in transporting cholesterol from the liver to each tissue in the body. However, as is the case for most things, too much of something is generally not good for you. This is also the case for LDL. Excess LDL cholesterol can also cause cholesterol to build up on the walls of our arteries. This is also known as atherosclerosis, which narrows the arteries and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. On the contrary, HDL (short for high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol works the other way around. It helps to recover the cholesterol that accumulated in each tissue back to the liver where it is broken down, which is why it is known as “the good one”.
Driving your cholesterol towards a healthy level: what can you do?
To live a healthy life, it is important to be aware of both lowering high LDL cholesterol and raising low HDL cholesterol. For LDL, one of the most effective methods is changing your dietary habits. It is recommended not to eat things that are high in saturated fat, trans fats or refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour. Instead, try to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. In that way, your diet will also contain enough fiber, which is also beneficial for your cholesterol level.
You can increase your HDL cholesterol by exercising. Regular “aerobic exercise”, more commonly known as “cardio”, are particularly beneficial. Especially aerobic exercise at “moderate-intensity” is popular. But sometimes it is not clear what “moderate-intensity” exercise means. “Moderate-intensity” can be regarded in terms of your heart rate. You can improve the effectiveness of an exercise by calculating the “target heart rate” from your normal heart rate and exercise according to that target. So, first, let’s check your resting heart rate. You can do so by measuring it via a heart rate monitor or smartphone app. However, of you don’t have either, measure your pulse placing a finger on the thumb side of the wrist, along the artery that flows from the hand to the wrist, which is called the radial artery. Heart rate per minute is usually calculated by multiplying the pulse rate per 15 seconds by 4. The resting heart rate of a healthy adult is between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Once you have calculated your heart rate at rest, calculate your “target heart rate” using the following formula:
(220 – age – resting heart rate) x 0.5 + resting heart rate
For example, if you are 45 years old and your resting heart rate is 65 bpm, the target heart rate is (220-45-65) x 0.5 + 65 = 120.
Also, measure your heart rate during your exercise and maintain the target heart rate as much as possible. This trick efficiently increases the HDL (good) cholesterol level. Try it out during your next training session! Even in these challenging times, with many people limited to self-isolation and home confinement, there are opportunities for aerobic exercise at moderate intensity. You can think of having a brisk walk outside, or doing some home exercise in your living room, such as squats or even climbing the stairs a few times.
Always remember your total well-being is a mix of factors, and your oral health plays an essential role in it. Therefore, don’t forget following your oral fitness program too. As the Sunstar GUM experts recommend, following a good oral hygiene routine is as easy as 1-2-3, and it will help you keep your oral health in good shape.