A home cholesterol test is one way that you can begin taking more responsibility for your health, and understanding just how your diet and lifestyle affect your cholesterol values. A cholesterol blood test will determine if you have normal cholesterol levels, and if not, the cholesterol test results can be read and further interpreted by your doctor.

Testing in a home environment is just not as accurate as the tests performed in your doctor’s office. Home test kits are just not engineered to replace a full diagnostic lab, but they don’t have to. These tests are meant to help you keep track of your cholesterol values, and make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle when you need to.

Caution: Never substitute a home cholesterol test, or home testing (of any kind) for proper diagnosis and treatment from your doctor. Your physician can measure cholesterol levels much more precisely using lab tests that you can with a home test, so the lab work your doctor orders on your blood samples is the most accurate and best way to establish what your levels really are.

Home tests help you keep track of markers like cholesterol or blood sugar, but they are not meant to be substitutes for a proper medical test or diagnosis!

You need to be tested by your doctor to establish what is called a “baseline,” and once you know what this is, then home testing can tell you whether your levels are going up or down. These measurements are “relative” and their real value is helping you to track how your cholesterol levels are responding to diet and exercise.

Although the home cholesterol test is fairly accurate, it should be calibrated with the cholesterol blood test that you have in your doctor’s office. Take your home test kit with you and test yourself at the same time your doctor draws your blood for the full laboratory test.

That way you can see how the results of the two tests differ, and will be able to get an idea of just how far off the cholesterol test results are between the cholesterol blood test you get in the doctor’s office and the home cholesterol test.

When you buy online, read reviews carefully, do a little research into the product you are buying. Some of these cholesterol testing systems are expensive (over $100.00) dollars, require you to buy a testing unit, and additional test strips for it. This can run well over $100.00 for both.

Obviously you would not use a home cholesterol test as often as you would use a glucose monitor for instance. You are merely trying to track your normal cholesterol levels, and see how they respond to changes you make in your diet and lifestyle.

Here are some brands:

  •     CholesTrak, Home Access Instant Cholesterol Test
  •     Cardio Check (gives you both HDL and LDL level)
  •     Lifestream Personal Cholesterol Monitor (give you both HDL and LDL)

“Cardio Check” seemed to have by far the highest customer satisfaction ratings online.

A home cholesterol test should can run between $10.00 and $150.00 depending on how comprehensive the test is. Some tests only give you total cholesterol, which is not a very useful indicator. It may tell you how your total cholesterol levels is responding to diet or exercise, but it does not indicate real risk factors.

For that you need to know your HDL level, and a test that gives you both LDL and HDL levels will give you the information to assess risk factors more clearly. When you know both your LDL and HDL levels, you can calculate total cholesterol, as well as HDL/LDL ratio which is the best cholesterol values which indicate your heart disease risk.

The home cholesterol test to look for is one that at least gives you both HDL and LDL levels. These should run you about $30-$50 and are available online. Again you will have to check it for accuracy against the cholesterol blood test from your doctor, but if it gives you a somewhat reliable indicator of your cholesterol values, then it’s doing it’s job.

Carotid ultrasound  is a non-surgical and painless test that is used to determine the amount of blockage of your carotid arteries. This is done by using ultrasound to create an image of the inside of the arteries.

carotid ultrasound
This allows the physician to assess the blood flow though your arteries and detect blockages caused by plaque buildup inside the carotid arteries that could put you at risk for a stroke.

This narrowing of the arteries is called “stenosis,” and is considered to be a big risk factor for strokes. There are two such arteries, one on either side of the neck. These arteries carry blood to the brain, and if this blood flow is interrupted, it can result in a stroke.

An ultrasound imaging of your carotid arteries is one of a number of tests that can be done to determine the extent of blockage or stenosis. There are several types of ultrasounds used. If you need this screening procedure, you should discuss with your doctor which version is appropriate for you.

Types of Carotid Ultrasound

There are two main types of tests that are used to image the carotid arteries.

  • Doppler ultrasound: This test actually creates images of the blow flow though the arteries.
  • Standard ultrasound: This test creates an image of the actual structure of the inside of the arteries.

Why are these tests performed?

The doctor may order a carotid ultrasound because he or she suspects there may be blockages or other types of damage to the artery wall that can prevent blood from getting to the brain, causing what is called an ischemic stroke, which is life threatening.

The problem may be a blood clot, or something called an artery dissection which is a damaging split in the artery wall. This condition can impede blood flow, or seriously weaken the artery wall, possibly leading to a stroke.

Another problem can be a narrowing of the artery because of plaque buildup involving bad cholesterol levels, which is called stenosis. This can be indicated by something called a bruit, which is a sound the doctor hears when using a stethoscope to externally examine your carotid arteries.

These abnormal sounds can indicate stenosis, so the doctor uses the carotid ultrasound to further determine just what is happening inside the arteries. There are other things that might cause the doctor to suspect artery disease such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Advanced age
  • Diabetes
  • Bad cholesterol levels
  • Birth defects that affect the carotid arteries
  • Strokes
  • TIA’s (transient ischemic attacks)
  • Tumors (very rare)

Who would perform the test?

This test is performed by a medical professional called a radiological technician. This is a person trained in both the procedure and preparation for medical imaging scans. The test will sometimes be performed by a doctor called a radiologist. These physicians are experts on performing and analyzing the results of medical imaging scans.

The radiologist will analyze the carotid ultrasound results and give your doctor a diagnosis based on the imaging scans of your carotid arteries.

How carotid ultrasound works

The equipment operated by the radiological technician generates high frequency sound waves that are projected into your body by a hand-held instrument called a transducer. When these sound waves strike your tissue and are reflected back to the transducer, it creates an image of the shape and structure of the tissues being scanned.

The biggest advantage of carotid ultrasound is that it is non-invasive, meaning that no piercing or cutting of the skin surface is necessary, and that the scanning technology uses sound waves which are much safer than other imaging technologies that use ionizing radiation which can damage tissue.

How is this test performed?

This test is usually performed in a hospital or sometimes in an outpatient clinic. It takes about an hour and usually involves the following steps:

1) You dress in a standard patient exam gown sometimes called a Johnny. You can also wear your own clothing as long as the neck area is open and there is no jewelery around your neck.

2) You lie on the exam table, on your back, and the radiological technician applies a gel to your neck that helps the equipment make proper contact with your skin.

3) The tech will then place something called an ultrasound transducer on your skin. This is a hand held instrument that sends the sound waves into your body. As the tech moves it around on your neck it produces an image of your carotid artery and surrounding area. This process is completely painless.

4) When the ultrasound is finished the gel gets wiped off. You will have to wait a few minutes until the tech or radiologist makes sure that the scan is complete, and then they will send you home.

5) Your doctor will then contact you with the results of your scan and the diagnosis he has been given by the radiologist.

The carotid ultrasound is a very valuable test because it allows your doctor to see exactly how much plaque buildup there is in your carotid arteries and then create a treatment protocol based on this precise information. This test could warn you in time to prevent a stroke or other serious medical problem, which makes it one of the most effective tests for prevention there is.

Soluble fiber for cholesterol is another safe and healthy way to lower cholesterol naturally, which lowers your risk of heart disease. Using fiber to lower cholesterol is a safer alternative to toxic drugs, besides which foods high in fiber have many other health benefits.

soluble fiber for cholesterFoods high in fiber have an important function in your body, and help to lower your risk of several chronic health conditions. Such fiber rich foods should be included in your diet on a daily basis.

Soluble means that your body can break them down, as opposed to insoluble which means that they pass through your digestive system without being broken down.

What foods contain soluble fiber for cholesterol?

Here is a short list of foods high in fiber.

  •     Psyllium husks
  •     Peas, beans, lentils
  •     Oats, oat bran, wheat bran,
  •     Broccoli, carrots, squash, potatoes, Zucchini
  •     Apples, oranges, tangerines, plums, strawberries, blackberries, apricots

There are more comprehensive lists of foods high in fiber online, but the above list gives you an idea of common foods that you can include in your diet to lower cholesterol naturally.

How do foods high in fiber work?

Research studies have established a positive correlation between dietary fiber and lowered cholesterol levels. There are 3 mechanisms that possibly explain this lowering effect:

  • Preventing cholesterol to be re-absorbed from bile sales and causing more of it to be excreted by elimination (feces)
  • Lowered glycemic response and reduced stimulation of cholesterol synthesis in the liver
  • Fermentation effects of soluble fiber affect bile salts and cut down on re-absorption in a way that is not well understood by science

Excess cholesterol that is not used by the body to synthesize hormones or other important functions is combined with bile acids in your large intestine, is recycled through your liver, and ends up back in your bloodstream.

Foods high in fiber can bind with the cholesterol and help transport it out of your body when you move your bowels. This is part of the way that foods high in fiber can lower cholesterol naturally, rather than using statin drugs that have dangerous side effects.

Remember as well that these sources of fiber only work optimally when you are well hydrated. Water is essential to getting the maximum benefits from fiber on your diet, so make a point to consume plenty of clean pure water throughout the day.

Using fiber to lower cholesterol does work and has been shown to be effective in well conducted studies. The role of soluble fiber for cholesterol has been known for years, but the public has only recently been made aware of it’s benefits.

You could say that using soluble fiber for cholesterol is the most natural way to optimize your cholesterol levels and fiber has other health benefits as well as it’s effect on blood lipids. Better function of your gastrointestinal system (gut) improves health across the board, and fiber has been shown to be beneficial to improving levels of pro-biotic bacteria in the colon.

Daily Recommended Amounts

The USDA recommends 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed for healthy adults. This works out to about 25-30 grams of fiber per day. The average for adults in the United States is approximately 15 grams.

Increased intake of fiber to lower cholesterol has also been associated with a lower risk of cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes, as well as heart disease. Foods high in fiber thus have many benefits beyond helping to optimize cholesterol levels.

Soluble fiber for cholesterol is one of the most important strategies for maintaining a healthy cholesterol profile. Try working these soluble fiber foods into your diet, and you will automatically lower your risk of heart disease!

Soluble fiber for cholesterol – scientific references:

Food Funct. 2010 Nov;1(2):149-55. doi: 10.1039/c0fo00080a. Epub 2010 Sep 30. Mechanisms underlying the cholesterol-lowering properties of soluble dietary fibre polysaccharides.
Gunness P, Gidley MJ.

Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jan;69(1):30-42. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. Brown L, Rosner B, Willett WW, Sacks FM.

Does red wine lower cholesterol?  The short answer is yes! When discussing what foods lower cholesterol the French Paradox with it’s red wine connection often comes up as one of the ways to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Let’s examine this a bit further to determine exactly what is happening in this case and if the connection is truly warranted.

does red wine lower cholesterol
We know that resveratrol supplements have many health benefits including the potential to lower cholesterol levels naturally. But does red wine which contains resveratrol have the same effect?

So once again, does red wine lower cholesterol? There are a number of factors to be considered in addition to the benefits of the poly-phenols and sapponins in the wine. You also have to factor in the fact that wine drinkers may be more affluent,  so they may  be able to afford to eat better, and be
more conscious about their health.

The French Paradox

The French Paradox is largely genetic! The MTHFR gene which predisposes people to heart disease and cancer is present in about 66% of the US population, while only 2-3% of the French carry this gene! With that said, lets examine why red wine may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol.

The strategy for those who have this gene defect is to supplement with a methylated form of folic acid called “methylfolate.” This will allow their bodies to properly absorb the folate and prevent the buildup of the toxic amino acid homocysteine.

Sapponins and LDL

There are glucose based compounds in red wine called sapponins, which bind with LDL and carry it out of the body, so that it cannot be reabsorbed and reprocessed through the liver. The poly-phenols in red wine also have antioxidant properties which help lower inflammation and prevent the
oxidation of LDL’s in your arteries.

This LDL binding and antioxidant effect is like a one-two punch against heart disease, and other chronic diseases, because as we know, inflammation is at the root of pretty much all chronic disease! Red wine does lower cholesterol but specifically LDL, and also helps to a small degree supply resveritrol which is another antioxidant that is protective against heart disease.

What Type of Red Wine?

Charles Poliquin the founder of the Biosignature method of optimal body composition recommends Sardian and Spanish red wines as the best. Charles is a world traveler and has extensive knowledge of how various foods affect the cardiovascular system.

Spanish and Sardian red wine are very rich in antioxidants that not only help lower LDL but also help with estrogen detoxification as well. A little is helpful but don’t ever do the wine as more is definitely not better.

Resveritrol Supplements

I would also add that resveratrol supplements are an even safer way to get the benefits of resveratrol and they are likely much more effective. It would take many bottles of wine to equal the amount of resveratrol in a couple of capsules of high quality resveratrol supplements. So for the person who
cannot drink, this is one of a number of safe ways to lower cholesterol. 250 mg per day has been recommended by Dr. Mark Houston associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University!

So does red wine lower cholesterol? The answer seems to be a definite yes, but you need to be doing all the other things like eating other foods to lower cholesterol, exercising, and avoiding trans fats, ect. as well.  So enjoy your red wine in moderation!

C-Reactive Protein  or CRP,  is what is called an inflammatory marker. It measures levels of a particular protein that indicate increased inflammation in your body. Along with homocysteine, it completes the picture of heart disease risk that begins with your cholesterol profile.

c-reactie proteinWhile optimizing your cholesterol profile is important, medical researchers noticed that half of all heart attack victims had normal cholesterol levels.

They realized that there were risk factors other than just cholesterol. This is where the c-reactive protein test comes in.

The test is a measure of inflammation and infection in your body, both of which are significant risk factors for heart disease that are largely ignored by mainstream medicine. Inflammatory markers like CRP are necessary in order to get an accurate idea of what your heart disease risk really is!

The test is part of that missing piece of the puzzle that explains heart disease risk, beyond just your cholesterol numbers. If your levels are high, then lowering them will definitely lessen your risk of heart disease. When you attempt to lower cholesterol naturally, you will have to pay attention to
CRP as well. The good news is that the same strategies will work for both!

What elevates CRP?

Your levels of c-reactive protein are elevated by increased inflammation in your body. Many things can cause this, so it is important to have the test done when you are feeling well and not suffering from illness or unusual stress, so that you can get an accurate reading of your levels, without
having the level elevated due to some injury, illness, or trauma.

For instance oral bacteria from dental cavities can elevate CRP levels, because those bacteria also cause inflammation. This is why dental health is correlated with heart disease risk. Bacterial infections of any kind will raise inflammation as your immune system attempts to fight off the bacteria.

What are healthy levels of c-reactive protein?

The CRP test measures results in milligrams per liter of blood.

The following guidelines for are recommended by the
American Heart Association (AHA) to determine heart disease risk:

  •     Low risk: CRP is 1 milligram/per liter or less
  •     Moderate risk: CRP is 1 to 3 milligrams/ per liter
  •     High risk: CRP is greater than 3 milligrams/ per liter

Lowering Inflammation

How do you lower inflammation and get the levels on the c-reactive protein test into the healthy range?  Since all these heart disease risk factors respond to the same lifestyle changes, you can address them all by doing a few simple things.

  •     Eating an “anti-inflammatory diet”
  •     Practice good oral hygiene
  •     Getting regular exercise
  •     Grounding
  •     Stress reduction
  •     Proper nutritional supplements

The Bottom Line

All of the various risk factors for heart disease may seem bewildering and overly technical. That is how medical science functions. Every factor must be measured and accounted for. The good part is that when you lower cholesterol naturally, you will be addressing these other factors as well.

However as I mentioned before, all of these factors are related, and they are just various manifestations of inflammation. Lowering inflammation will bring CRP and these other heart disease indicators to a better level. So that should be your goal, to use diet, exercise and nutritional supplementation in lowering inflammation.

C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and cholesterol profile are all necessary tests to precisely and accurately determine what your risk for heart disease really is. Work to lower your inflammatory markers, and you will be much healthier for it!

Cholesterol lowering exercise has three basic functions, to lower triglycerides and LDL, lower blood sugar, and to raise HDL cholesterol. Any form of exercise that does those three things will help.

kettlebell exerciseExercise and cholesterol are inversely related. This simply means that the more exercise you do, the more you can reduce your cholesterol levels, provided you are exercising correctly.

Most of the studies on exercise and cholesterol were done on aerobic exercise like  running or jogging. These activities are reported to lower LDL between 5-10%, and raise HDL cholesterol from 3-6%. These are estimates in a range of results, so your individual results may be more or less than this.

The important thing is that any activity is beneficial, and you have to modify the type of cholesterol lowering exercise to suit your individual circumstances. For instance, if you have injuries or orthopedic problems, you might want to do some kind of exercise in a pool that is non impact like swimming, or other water exercise. Even walking is preferable to being idle.

With that said, lets look at what types of cholesterol lowering exercise is best  and what makes these forms of exercise so effective.

Aerobic Exercise

This form of exercise utilizes oxygen as you go and will raise HDL cholesterol. It is the most studied form of exercise to help prevent heart disease. However I would caution that aerobics can be overdone, and have negative effects on your hormonal system if you do them too long at a slow steady pace because it raises cortisol which is a stress hormone that is bad for the heart.

Interval Training

Interval training is a great compromise as it can increase heart and lung function, but will not negatively effect your hormonal system. Interval training utilizes short intense bursts of exercise followed by a slowdown or rest period.

Heavyhands and kettlebell training are two examples of exercise that use interval training rather than steady state cardiovascular exercise. Intervals are not specific to the exercise device or equipment, rather it is exercise pace and timing that makes interval training so effective.

A good example of this is the PACE program of Dr. Al Sears M.D. This program utilizes a form of interval training to raise peak fitness and prepare the heart and lungs for occasional bursts of intense activity.

It is the stress of sudden intense activity in an unconditioned person that is most likely to trigger a heart attack, so getting the body used to handling this stress can protect against it.

Kettlebells

Kettlebell training is my favorite form of cholesterol lowering exercise,  because it combines strength training with cardiovascular exercise at the same time. It will help maintain muscle mass, which will lower triglycerides by keeping blood sugar low.

As I mentioned previously, you can do interval training  very effectively with kettlebells but you have to be cautious and make sure you use proper technique as these exercise implements can be tricky to handle.  I strongly suggest you either get professional instruction, or purchase a good book or DVD that teaches how to do these exercises properly.

Kettlebell training can help raise HDL cholesterol because of the cardiovascular aspects of this exercise. Since you cannot adjust the weight of a kettlebell, you will need to come up with creative ways to make the exercises more intense and physically demanding. This form of training seems to be very effective for burning stored bodyfat , which is important when exercising for heart health.

The Bottom Line

Cholesterol lowering exercise can range from light simple exercise like walking to intense exercise like intervals or kettlebell training. The most important thing is that it fits your physical limitations, lifestyle, and individual needs.

Start easy and keep it simple, but get moving and make regular exercise a part of your life. You will look and feel better, and will lower cholesterol naturally.

Green Tea and Cholesterol have been the subject of many research studies that indicate that it a highly beneficial substance for its ability to lower cholesterol naturally, and also provide antioxidant protection to your entire body!

cup of green teaThis age old herbal wonder has been used as a folk remedy for many different conditions in Asia, and has now become popular all over the world as a health sustaining drink.

Drinking tea can be a very healthy habit to get into IF you are drinking the right kind of tea.

What are the benefits for managing cholesterol levels?

Studies have shown that green tea and cholesterol have an inverse relationship, that is higher consumption of green tea results in lower cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that high chlesterol levels are often the body’s way of compensating for deficiencies (like vitamin-d for example), so when a substance seems to lower cholesterol levels it may indicate the body needs that substance to be healthy.

Here is a short list of benefits:

  •     Lower triglycerides
  •     Lower LDL cholesterol
  •     Raise HDL Cholesterol
  •     Boost antioxidant activity
  •     Lower inflammation
  •     Boosts levels of the super antioxidant SOD
  •     Lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer

Lower triglycerides

Green tea can lower triglycerides which in turn will lower LDL cholesterol. This effect on blood fats has been well documented. In addition the antioxidant benefits prevent LDL particles from oxidizing and this is very important for avoiding the artery damage that causes heart attacks.

Lower LDL cholesterol

LDL or “low density lipoproteins” are a big risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Green tea effectively lowers the levels of LDL in your body, removing a serious risk factor for the causation of arterial plaque, heart attacks, and strokes.

Raise HDL cholesterol

By raising HDL levels, green tea further protects arteries from damage caused by oxidized LDL. HDL itself is an antioxidants, and it has been shown that when several antioxidants combine in the body, they have a synergistic effect when combined.

Lower blood pressure

Green tea has a positive effect on blood pressure by promoting function of your arterial lining, which is what regulates blood pressure. This is preferable to the use of prescription drugs which can have serious side effects.

Research done in Japan on over 1,300 Japanese men indicated that green tea and cholesterol were inversely related, the more tea they consumed the more they were able to lower cholesterol naturally.  It can be part of a more natural approach to cholesterol mangement that avoids the serious side effects of using statins. This alone makes the tea worth serious consideration.

Those men who drank 9 cups per day or more had levels of cholesterol that were significantly lower than those drinking 0-2 cups per day. Tea drinking in Japan is a popular custom, and the Japanese are the longest living people in the world on average. While it’s true that the Japanese and Chinese do many healthy things diet and exercise wise, tea drinking is among the healthiest of them all.

Form and dosage

One to ten cups per day will provide benefits for your cardiovascular system, or you may find it more convenient to use in supplement form, consuming one (350-500mg) capsule per day of 95% extract of green tea.

Green tea and cholesterol will continue to be the subject of ongoing research, and it’s likely that this research will uncover even more benefits from using this age old herbal substance. One thing is for sure, and that is that you will get multiple health benefits by enjoying this age old Asian remedy!