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5 + 4 about Good Cholesterol.

Cholesterol, the fat-like substance is the word that most people especially the middle-age group and above hate to hear.

It is a constant advice that we should all cut down or avoid red meats, seafood and products from animal fats because they are high in cholesterol or are high saturated fatty acids which will raise the triglycerides (a form of fat made in the body) and cholesterol levels in the body. However, for most people, without the wonderful delicious pork, beef, mutton, liver, skin of poultry, ham, bacon; drunken prawns, chilly/pepper “Sri Lanka” crabs, “hum/tua tao/lala” (clam), “sotong” (squid, cuttlefish), lobsters; butter, lard, egg yolk, etc., life will be meaningless.

That is just negative which we remembers. The flipped side is that our body needs cholesterol for functions such as making hormones. Besides being found in those products above, it is also produced in our body.

There are good and bad cholesterols. They can’t dissolve in the blood and have to be transported through the bloodstream in different carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) deliver cholesterol to the body, while high-density lipoproteins (HDL or “good” cholesterol) take cholesterol out of the bloodstream to the liver which will then passes them out of the body.

We are told the higher your HDL cholesterol, the better it is. Now, I learned that biological reality is more complex as genes direct the body’s production of HDL and that many of us might not be lucky enough to inherit genes that result in a lot of HDL. Luckily, genes are only part of the story because lifestyle factors and, to a smaller extent, medications can strongly influence HDL levels.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) and the American Diabetes Association advise people to aim for HDL levels of at least 40 mg/dL. An even more protective goal, according to the NCEP, is 60 mg/dL or higher.

Why is having high HDL cholesterol is important?

At first, scientists believed that HDL was simply a garbage collector that picked up cholesterol from an artery’s walls and delivered it to the liver for disposal. That’s still considered the main role of HDL, but research is starting to suggest that HDL can help protect the heart in many ways:

  • Reverse cholesterol transport. HDL latches onto LDL embedded in an artery wall, lugs it back into the bloodstream, and carries it to the liver. The liver collects cholesterol from the HDL particles, packages it into bile salts and bile acids, and dumps it into the intestines for excretion.
  • Antioxidant activity. LDL cholesterol in the artery wall is bombarded by oxygen free radicals, which turns it into oxidized LDL cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is the stuff that’s actually responsible for arterial damage — and research shows that HDL can help protect LDL cholesterol from free radicals.
  • Anti-inflammatory action. HDL helps to quiet the inflammation of an atherosclerotic plaque. Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) reflect the inflammation of such a plaque and HDL may neutralize CRP’s tendency to perpetuate the inflammatory cycle.
  • Antithrombotic activity. Plaque rupture triggers the formation of an artery-blocking blood clot. By halting the flow of oxygen-rich blood, the clot kills heart muscle cells (heart attack) or brain cells (stroke). HDL reduces clot formation and accelerates the healing process that dissolves clots.
  • Endothelial function. Blood vessels plagued with atherosclerosis sustain other damage. In particular, the endothelial cells lining the arteries fail to produce normal amounts of nitric oxide, the chemical that allows arteries to dilate (widen) when tissues need more oxygen. HDL helps preserve nitric oxide production and protect endothelial function.

How much does HDL help?

The Framingham Heart Study was responsible for many landmark discoveries about HDL cholesterol, and the Physicians’ Health Study helped confirm that HDL was protective, reporting that various HDL subtypes are all helpful. Data continue to show that the good cholesterol is very good indeed.

  • Heart disease. Low HDL levels are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, while high levels are protective. According to the Framingham Heart Study, cardiac risk rises sharply as HDL cholesterol levels fall below 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). In general, each 1 mg/dL rise in an HDL cholesterol level can be expected to cut cardiac risk by 2% to 3%.
  • Stroke. Strokes come in many forms, but the most common type, ischemic stroke, shares many risk factors with heart attack. High HDL cholesterol levels reduce the risk of stroke; in several studies, HDL cholesterol is a much better predictor of risk than LDL cholesterol, particularly in people older than 75.
  • Erectile dysfunction. Normal erections depend on many things, including healthy arteries that produce good amounts of nitric oxide. It’s no surprise, then, that the Massachusetts Male Aging Study found that 16% of men with low levels of HDL cholesterol had erectile dysfunction, but none of the men with the highest levels did.
  • Longevity. Several investigations suggest that high HDL levels are linked to longevity, particularly exceptional longevity. Other research links high levels of HDL cholesterol to preserved cognitive function in old age. More research is needed to learn if HDL deserves the credit or if other genetic factors are responsible.

Ways to raise your HDL

  • Exercise. Exercise is an important way to boost HDL levels. On average, sedentary people who start to exercise regularly can expect their HDL levels to rise by 3% to 20%. The benefit can occur with as little as one mile of walking or jogging a day, but the more you do, the better your result. Brisk walking for 40 minutes a day is a good target, but if you need more help, aim higher.
  • Watch your dietary fats. Saturated fat won’t affect your HDL cholesterol, but it will raise your LDL cholesterol. The latest American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines call for limiting saturated fat to less than 7% of your total daily calories. Reduce your intake of trans fats to less than 1% of your total daily calories. Trans fat lowers HDL cholesterol and raises LDL cholesterol, a double whammy to health. But unsaturated fats like virgin olive oil may boost HDL levels, and the omega 3 fats in fish, nuts, and canola oil may promote cardiac health even if they don’t affect your HDL reading.
  • Watch your carbs! Or at least the types of carbs you’re eating. Diets that provide large amounts of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates are clearly linked to low levels of HDL cholesterol. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates in favor of coarsely ground, whole grain, unrefined carbs like whole grain bread, oatmeal, and beans.
  • Alcohol. Moderate drinking will raise HDL levels by about 4 mg/dL, which should cut cardiac risk by about 10%. This translates to one to two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women. For this “prescription,” count 5 ounces of wine, 1½ ounces of liquor, or 12 ounces of beer as one drink.
  • Weight control. Obesity is linked to low HDL levels, but weight loss can help. Exercise and diet are the dynamic duo for weight loss, but shedding excess pounds will boost HDL levels over and above the independent effects of regular exercise and a healthful diet.
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Tea ‘healthier’ drink than water
Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits, say researchers.

The work in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition dispels the common belief that tea dehydrates.

Tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, but it can also protect against heart disease and some cancers,UK nutritionists found.

Experts believe flavonoids are the key ingredient in tea that promote health.

Healthy cuppa
These polyphenol antioxidants are found in many foods and plants, including tea leaves, and have been shown to help prevent cell damage.

Public health nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton, and colleagues at Kings College London, looked at published studies on the health effects of tea consumption.

They found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack.

Some studies suggested tea consumption protected against cancer, although this effect was less clear-cut.

Other health benefits seen included protection against tooth plaque and potentially tooth decay, plus bone strengthening.

Dr Ruxton said: “Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it’s got two things going for it.”

Rehydrating
She said it was an urban myth that tea is dehydrating.

“Studies on caffeine have found very high doses dehydrate and everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages dehydrate.

But even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a net gain of fluid.

“Also, a cup of tea contains fluoride, which is good for the teeth,” she added.

There was no evidence that tea consumption was harmful to health.

However, research suggests that tea can impair the body’s ability to absorb iron from food, meaning people at risk of anaemia should avoid drinking tea around mealtimes.

Dr Ruxton’s team found average tea consumption was just under three cups per day.

She said the increasing popularity of soft drinks meant many people were not drinking as much tea as before.

“Tea drinking is most common in older people, the 40 plus age range.

In older people, tea sometimes made up about 70% of fluid intake so it is a really important contributor,” she said.

Claire Williamson of the British Nutrition Foundation said: “Studies in the laboratory have shown potential health benefits.

“The evidence in humans is not as strong and more studies need to be done.

But there are definite potential health benefits from the polyphenols in terms of reducing the risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancers.

“In terms of fluid intake, we recommend 1.5-2 litres per day and that can include tea. Tea is not dehydrating. It is a healthy drink.”

The Tea Council provided funding for the work.

Dr Ruxton stressed that the work was independent.

BBC Health 24 August 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5281046.stm

Top 10 Health Benefits of Drinking Tea
by Lynn Grieger, RD, CD, CDE

There are lots of reasons why I enjoy a hot cup of tea: I love the aroma of various flavors of tea; holding onto a hot tea mug warms my hands on a cold winter morning; sipping tea in front of the fireplace is a great way to relax. And those are just the feel-good reasons. If you’re not drinking tea yet, read up on these 10 ways tea does your body good and then see if you’re ready to change your Starbucks order!

1. Tea contains antioxidants. Like the Rust-Oleum paint that keeps your outdoor furniture from rusting, tea’s antioxidants protect your body from the ravages of aging and the effects of pollution.

2. Tea has less caffeine than coffee. Coffee usually has two to three times the caffeine of tea (unless you’re a fan of Morning Thunder, which combines caffeine with mate, an herb that acts like caffeine in our body). An eight-ounce cup of coffee contains around 135 mg caffeine; tea contains only 30 to 40 mg per cup. If drinking coffee gives you the jitters, causes indigestion or headaches or interferes with sleep — switch to tea.

3. Tea may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Unwanted blood clots formed from cholesterol and blood platelets cause heart attack and stroke. Drinking tea may help keep your arteries smooth and clog-free, the same way a drain keeps your bathroom pipes clear. A 5.6-year study from the Netherlands found a 70 percent lower risk of fatal heart attack in people who drank at least two to three cups of black tea daily compared to non-tea drinkers.  

4. Tea protects your bones. It’s not just the milk added to tea that builds strong bones. One study that compared tea drinkers with non-drinkers, found that people who drank tea for 10 or more years had the strongest bones, even after adjusting for age, body weight, exercise, smoking and other risk factors. The authors suggest that this may be the work of tea’s many beneficial phytochemicals.

5. Tea gives you a sweet smile. One look at the grimy grin of Austin Powers and you may not think drinking tea is good for your teeth, but think again. It’s the sugar added to it that’s likely to blame for England’s bad dental record. Tea itself actually contains fluoride and tannins that may keep plaque at bay. So add unsweetened tea drinking to your daily dental routine of brushing and flossing for healthier teeth and gums.

6. Tea bolsters your immune defenses. Drinking tea may help your body’s immune system fight off infection. When 21 volunteers drank either five cups of tea or coffee each day for four weeks, researchers saw higher immune system activity in the blood of the tea drinkers.

7. Tea protects against cancer. Thank the polyphenols, the antioxidants found in tea, once again for their cancer-fighting effects. While the overall research is inconclusive, there are enough studies that show the potential protective effects of drinking tea to make adding tea to your list of daily beverages. 

8. Tea helps keep you hydrated. Caffeinated beverages, including tea, used to be on the list of beverages that didn’t contribute to our daily fluid needs. Since caffeine is a diuretic and makes us pee more, the thought was that caffeinated beverages couldn’t contribute to our overall fluid requirement. However, recent research has shown that the caffeine really doesn’t matter — tea and other caffeinated beverages definitely contribute to our fluid needs. The only time the caffeine becomes a problem as far as fluid is concerned is when you drink more than five or six cups of a caffeinated beverage at one time. 

9. Tea is calorie-free. Tea doesn’t have any calories, unless you add sweetener or milk.Consuming even 250 fewer calories per day can result in losing one pound per week. If you’re looking for a satisfying, calorie-free beverage, tea is a top choice.

10. Tea increases your metabolism. Lots of people complain about a slow metabolic rate and their inability to lose weight. Green tea has been shown to actually increase metabolic rate so that you can burn 70 to 80 additional calories by drinking just five cups of green tea per day. Over a year’s time you could lose eight pounds just by drinking green tea. Of course, taking a 15-minute walk every day will also burn calories.

http://health.ivillage.com/eating/0,,7kq79l90,00.html