The question is,”Does stress affect your health”? If you have elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and or belly fat you need to read this article.
It will help you understand why taking medication is not the only answer or choice to reducing cholesterol. I will share with you a general understanding of how stress drives up cholesterol, blood pressure and belly fat.
Elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and a big concern for many. The first question to ask is ” where does cholesterol come from”?
Research shows, 15-30% of the total blood cholesterol comes from your diet depending on what you eat.
Over the last 25 years or so there has been a huge public awareness campaign for people to stop eating cholesterol. So we see food packages with a “no cholesterol” label.
And here is a key finding… many have actually reduced their cholesterol intake yet they may still have elevated cholesterol in their blood. How is this happening?
Your body makes cholesterol in the liver and this may account for some 70-85% of the total cholesterol in your blood.
So even if you eat zero cholesterol your body would make all it needs in the liver.
A smart question to ask is “why is my body making cholesterol”?
What is stimulating it to produce it and an even better question would be “how can I slow it down”? What is becoming very clear in the research is that one of the strongest stimuli on the liver to produce cholesterol is… insulin!
Yes that’s the hormone involved in blood sugar management.
Insulin is a very powerful stimulus that tells the body to store energy and produce cholesterol. In the liver it turns on enzymes that produce cholesterol. Insulin also stimulates the liver to make more LDL the “bad” cholesterol.
Now you are probable asking, “what makes my insulin levels go up”?
Great question. One of the biggest components is your diet and specifically your intake of the sugar spiking foods. We call these the High Glycemic foods.
It can also be the excessive intake of carbohydrates which as a society we take in way too many.
Nutrient insufficiencies can also contribute to “insulin resistance”.
This means the insulin receptors that help bring down blood sugar don’t work quite right, so the body compensates and produces more insulin to get the job done, and to drive the sugar into the cells.
There are also other factors at play that alter your physiology to increase insulin.
One very key player is lack of sleep.
Reducing your sleep from 8 hours to just 6 hours a night for 7 days can greatly increase your insulin production. (It will also increase hormones that make you eat more as well, and reduce your satiety so you don’t feel full and keep eating.)
And finally the elevated stress hormone, which is called cortisol, also drives up insulin in turn driving up cholesterol production.
Cortisol elevates blood sugar and insulin reduces it, thus they work in opposition. Chronic stress drives up insulin, which in turn drives up cholesterol production.
It is also interesting to note that lack of sleep also greatly drives up cortisol levels and feeds forward this cycle. Cortisol also directly acts directly on the liver to increase cholesterol production.
The story doesn’t stop here.
It has been know for a long time that elevated blood pressure is part of the “ticking time bomb” of cardiovascular disease.
It is not uncommon for many to have elevated cholesterol and elevated blood pressure and maybe even belly fat at the same time.
Insulin also working through multiple mechanisms contributes to “vascular inflammation” which is what drives up blood pressure (BP). And chronic stress also causes elevated blood pressure directly.
Earlier it was stated that insulin promotes storage of fat.
It does this everywhere on the body including the belly area. The fat tissue around your organs is unique in that it has high levels of cortisol receptors. What this means to you is…
when you are chronically stressed, your fat cells are continually getting the signal to “store fat”.
The external “symptom” is that you gain belly fat. It is a sign that your physiology is out of balance and has been for a while. Simply cutting calories is not the answer to reducing belly fat.
It is vital to understand that belly fat sits in you not on you.
It sits deep within your abdominal area around your organs where it causes damage. It is the most dangerous type of fat.
There is a condition called Metabolic Syndrome which to simplify we could say is kind of like “pre-diabetes”.
Some of the “symptoms” include elevated blood pressure and or cholesterol, and or elevated LDL and low HDL and belly fat. Can you see how these pieces of the puzzle work together to give or take away your health?
Elevated cholesterol is not your problem.
Your out of balance physiology which is driving up cholesterol production is. And that’s most likely due to your lifestyle.
You have complete control over these factors! As a matter of fact, believe it or not, the major governing bodies that recommend treatment to doctors recommend diet and lifestyle before medications!
Now, you could use medications (statin drugs) to bring down your cholesterol.
And they can do that, but they do have some negative effects associated with them, including muscle pain and fatigue.
Or you could work “upstream” and take actions which give you direct control and which directly target the root cause of your elevated cholesterol (and other risk factors!). What’s your choice?
Some key solutions include:
Improving the amount of your sleep to the recommended eight hours per night.
Focus on reducing stress in all the different areas of your life (workplace, home life, life purpose, mission, direction, reducing sources of inflammation, financial stress, etc) .
And also key is reducing your intake of high glycemic carbohydrates.
It is important to reduce intake of “liquid candy” and boost your diet with key nutrients to overcome any shortfalls (multi vitamin-mineral).
Increasing both soluble and insoluble fibers:
This will help to stabilize blood sugar, reduce insulin as well as bind cholesterol before it enters your blood which all bring cholesterol down.
I can also strongly recommend and encourage you to move more.
Can you move more for fun, joy purpose and socialization? Of course you can.
Exercise helps tire one out so we sleep better. It works better than any medication to improve insulin resistance and lower insulin levels.
It also helps “burn” stress and fat and it gives our bodies muscle tone which is sexy! NICE. We did it as kids and we can do it as adults.
I hope this article serves you well and shows you how stress drives up your cholesterol, BP and belly fat. I also hope it empowers you to take control of your health.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions.