Cholesterol is essential for every body function. Your body makes all your steroid hormones, including adrenalin, estrogen and testosterone from cholesterol. Cholesterol forms part of all your organs, including your heart and your brain. You can’t live without it.
Most of your cholesterol doesn’t come from food, but it’s made every day by your liver. When you eat high cholesterol food, the liver reduces its own production to keep blood cholesterol level low and healthy.
Blood cholesterol can rise to dangerous levels by disordered cholesterol metabolism, which is a man-made disease, caused mainly by our degraded nutrition and sedentary lifestyle.
We have low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is “bad” cholesterol and high-density liproprotein (HDL), which is “good” cholesterol. Total cholesterol is mostly LDL, with smaller particles and this simple measure is still one of the best predictors of cardiovascular disease. It can now be measured with a simple device called the “accumeter”, which is reasonable accurate.
What level can we consider to be healthy? In the mid 80’s, the American Heart Association and other US health authorities recommended below 200 mg/dl. Today we know that even 200 mg/dl is too high. Death rates from cardiovascular disease starts to rise as cholesterol goes above 168 mg/dl.
According to a very comprehensive study by Dr. Jeremiah Stamler, which involved 356,000 men in 28 US cities, total cholesterol rises over 200 mg/dl when they are in their 30’s and reach about 220 mg/dl by age 45. It is obvious that sitting like a slug makes you ripe for disease.
How do athletes perform? Recent research shows that average cholesterol levels in male and female bodybuilders and runners, ranged between 158 mg/dl and 183 mg/dl. Without a doubt, exercise makes the healthy difference.
Exercise is a must in order to protect you from cardiovascular disease for two reasons.Firstly, they are far beyond anything else our biggest disease problem, killing more than twice as many Americans as all cancers, nine times as many as all other lung and liver diseases combined and 28 times as many as all forms of diabetes.
Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, kidney diseases, multiple sclerosis and other high profile disorders are all minor (except to the folk suffering them) and AIDS, despite all it’s publicity, isn’t even in the hunt.
The second reason for stressing cardiovascular protection by exercise, distortions by the media of the deaths of bad informed people who went from long-term sedentary lifestyles into strenuous exercise programs. For many good reasons, a thorough medical and physician’s approval is a must before starting any exercise program. According to John Hopkins Medical Letter, sudden exertion in sedentary people “raises their changes of a heart attack ……100-fold”.
Most people who have heart attacks during activity are sedentary or have underlying heart disease and overdo it. But if you do the right exercise, five times per week for at least 30 minutes or longer, sudden exertion hardly increases your risk at all.
So ignore media headlines that yet another jogger has dropped dead during training. It was likely his first exercise program for years.