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This is How Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Cholesterol

The habits you develop in your daily life contribute to your health in both positive and negative ways. If you’re looking to make some positive lifestyle changes to contribute to your health, start with choosing nutritious foods, getting plenty of exercise, and avoiding smoking. Your alcohol intake matters, too.

In moderate amounts, red wine is commonly linked to healthy cholesterol levels. But drinking more hard liquor, beer, mixed drinks, and excess red wine has a negative impact on your cholesterol levels.

At Westmed Family Healthcare, we want you to understand the connection between alcohol and cholesterol. Here’s some information about cholesterol and how drinking affects your heart health.

Your body needs just enough cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that travels through your blood. At persistently elevated levels, it’s linked to an increased risk in heart disease. But cholesterol isn’t a bad guy on its own. In fact, your body needs cholesterol to function properly.

The problem is, your body needs only a small amount of it, and your liver produces enough to meet your body’s needs.

What role does cholesterol play in health?

Cholesterol has a few major functions in the body. It plays a part in hormone and vitamin D production. It’s also incorporated into bile acids, which aid digestion and vitamin absorption. Cholesterol provides support to the production and maintenance of your cell membranes, as well.

In other words, you need cholesterol for good health.

Where does all the extra cholesterol come from?

While your body makes all the cholesterol you need, you also get some from your diet. Cholesterol is found in animal-derived foods such as beef, chicken, fish, and cheese. Because of this, it was long thought that dietary cholesterol contributed to elevated blood cholesterol.

We used to recommend that patients limit their consumption of foods like eggs yolks if they had high cholesterol. We now know that dietary cholesterol in the amounts Americans typically consume has very little influence on blood cholesterol levels.

What causes elevated cholesterol?

As far as diet, saturated fat is the single most influential factor affecting on cholesterol levels. A diet high in saturated fat has a potent influence on raising low-density lipoprotein, a harmful form of cholesterol.

Lifestyle choices can affect your cholesterol levels by influencing how your body breaks down cholesterol. Smoking for example, is well-known to increase cholesterol and another blood fat called triglyceride. Alcohol intake also influences cholesterol levels.

Alcohol and cholesterol

The connection between drinking alcohol and cholesterol levels is complex, and we don’t know everything just yet. We do know that red wine contains polyphenol compounds that may lower the bad form of cholesterol, LDL. Moderate consumption of red wine is linked to healthy cholesterol levels.

But this isn’t a reason to start drinking red wine if you don’t already since the same polyphenols in red wine are found in nutritious foods like grapes.

The effect of moderate consumption of other types of alcohol is less clear. Results of studies have provided conflicting evidence, with some showing no effect, while others show that moderate consumption of other types of alcohol may raise levels of HDL, a good form of cholesterol.

Regardless, drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol may have the opposite effect by raising total cholesterol and triglycerides.

Alcohol intake recommendations

If you currently drink, stick to moderate consumption — that’s up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. If you currently have high cholesterol, your Westmed Family Healthcare provider may provide individualized recommendations.

Healthy cholesterol levels

What constitutes healthy cholesterol? Aim for a total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dl and an LDL level below 100 mg/dl. You should aim for high HDL levels. An optimal level is above 60 mg/dl. Levels vary by age, gender, and weight.

Keeping your cholesterol levels healthy is key to maintaining your overall health. To learn more about managing cholesterol levels and for all other top-quality care for your entire family reach out to us at our Westminster, Colorado, office to schedule an appointment or book your appointment online.

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