(Natural News) With high cholesterol being a major contributor to adverse cardiovascular conditions, MedicalNewsToday.com underscores the importance of paying attention to the type of fats that people eat, as each type can influence cholesterol levels differently. According to the website, both saturated fats and trans fats are detrimental to the body’s overall health as they raise the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Trans fats are also found the reduce the levels of good cholesterol. In contrast, unsaturated fats are known to increase the rates at which the liver reabsorbs and degrades bad cholesterol.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people limit their consumption of saturated fats to no more than five to six percent of the total daily calories. Avoiding the following foods may help cut back on saturated fat intake:
- Lard and shortening
- Fatty beef
- Poultry with skin
- Saturated vegetable oils
- Dairy products made from either whole milk or reduced-fat milk
The AHA also stresses on the importance of avoiding trans fat to keep cholesterol levels in check. The following foods are known to contain high levels of trans fat:
- Commercially-fried foods
- Buttered popcorn
- Packaged frosting
- Potato chips and crackers
- Bakery goods containing shortening
- Packaged cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and pastries
- Other products containing partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oils
In contrast, the Harvard Medical School lists 11 foods that help lower cholesterol levels. (Related: Combat high cholesterol the natural way by eating these foods)
- Fatty fish
- Vegetable oils
- Eggplant and okra
- Fiber supplements
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits
- Foods fortified with sterols and stanols
Health by the numbers
High cholesterol continues to be a primary health burden around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), high cholesterol is associated with 2.6 million deaths and 29.7 million disability adjusted life years worldwide. The organization reports that the global prevalence of high cholesterol levels among adults was 39 percent in 2008 alone. Data also show that the WHO Region of Europe has the highest prevalence of raised cholesterol levels at 54 percent for both sexes. This is followed by the WHO Region of the Americas at 48 percent for both sexes. The WHO African Region and the WHO South East Asian Region had the lowest prevalence at 22.6 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
The organization also notes that the condition is a major cause of ischemic heart disease and stroke in both developed and developing countries. According to the WHO, raised cholesterol levels account for a third of ischemic heart disease cases globally. However, the organization notes that a 10 percent reduction in serum cholesterol in men aged 40 is associated with a 50 percent decline in heart disease occurrence within five years. A similar reduction for men aged 70 years may curb heart disease occurrence by 20 percent, the WHO adds.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also show that 73.5 million American adults have elevated levels of bad cholesterol. This accounts for more than 31 percent of the total adult population in the U.S. The CDC also notes that only about 30 percent of adults with high cholesterol rates are able to manage the condition. In addition, less than half of these adults receive treatments to lower their cholesterol levels.
The CDC also reports that high cholesterol levels vary between racial or ethnic groups. According to the CDC, Mexican American men have the highest prevalence of high cholesterol at nearly 39 percent, followed by non-Hispanic Blacks at 30.7 percent and non-Hispanic Whites at 29.4 percent. Among women, non-Hispanic Blacks have the highest prevalence of high cholesterol at 33.6 percent, followed by non-Hispanic Whites at 32 percent and Mexican Americans at 31.8 percent.