Does Alcohol, Smoking, Sugar, or Salt Affect Cholesterol?

It’s clear that lack of exercise, bad diet (eating too many foods low in fiber and high in saturated fat), and even obesity can affect your chance of having high cholesterol. Furthermore, if you have a family history of this health problem, this also can increase your risk, either for the age factor (your risk increases as you get older). But how about with sugar, salt, cigarette smoking, and alcohol – do they also have an effect on your cholesterol levels?

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Does drinking alcohol affect your cholesterol?

A few research found that drinking alcohol in moderation may help improve the level of your cholesterol and keep it on its healthy level. According to these studies, people who had a habit of drinking alcohol in moderation got lower risk of heart disease than others who didn’t.

In particular, for red wine – some experts believe that it may be the greatest choice of alcohol beverage to help improve the health of the heart and lower the risk of heart disease, why? Because it contains some essential natural plant chemicals that might help protect the walls of your artery and also can provide antioxidant properties (great to fight free radicals that can cause cancer).

Another theory, drinking alcohol moderately may also help improve the level of your HDL or much more familiar called as ‘good cholesterol’. HDL can help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol). So, more HDL in the blood is good to improve your blood flow. See more in-depth information how HDL can control your LDL on this section!

However, there are also some crucial issues you need to concern before using alcohol for one of your options in controlling and lowering your LDL!

The excessive consumption of alcohol can be counterproductive. In other words, drinking alcohol is not entirely positive.

Excessive drinking can cause increased risk of stroke, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and heart muscle disease. Excessive calories that you can get from alcohol can raise your triglyceride (another kind of bad cholesterol). And the increased triglyceride can be potential to affect your LDL to rise.

Furthermore, drinking alcohol can put you at greater chance of getting a traffic accident. For these reasons, the use of alcohol to lower cholesterol is still debatable. Even it is not recommended to use drinking alcohol specifically to treat high cholesterol – according to the recommendation by AHA (the American Heart Association).

Instead, it’s much more recommended to use lifestyle approaches such as with regular exercise, eating right in well-balanced diet, and maintaining your weight (losing weight can help if you are being overweight) to keep your cholesterol off.

However if you do believe that drinking alcohol can help, don’t forget to discuss first with your doctor to keep safe!

According to AHA, drinking alcohol in moderation is not more than 2 glasses for men and 1 glass for women. But for women with pregnancy, they need to avoid it entirely!

How about with smoking? Is it bad for your cholesterol?

While the issue of drinking alcohol is still debatable (as mentioned before), it’s clear that cigarette smoking (even for secondhand smoke) is very bad for your entire health, either for your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

If you are a smoker, quitting can significantly help improve your good cholesterol (HDL) and blood pressure.

Just 20 minutes after stop smoking, your blood pressure level decreases. In the next 24 hours after stopping, your risk of heart disease decreases. And after a year of quitting, you now have a half risk of heart disease than a smoker. And after 15 years of quitting, you can get the low risk of heart disease as well as in people who have never smoked.

Tobacco itself can injury the walls of your blood vessels. Moreover, some studies found that tobacco may be bad for your HDL. It may have contribution to suppress your HDL to become lower than normal. And having lower HDL means your LDL will raise, because HDL is a kind of good cholesterol that can help lower the amounts of LDL in the blood – as noted before.

Does salt also have an effect to your cholesterol?

Salt may not have a direct link to your cholesterol. But it can directly affect your blood pressure. And having high blood pressure is one of risk factors of high cholesterol.

The raised pressure on the walls of your artery and other blood vessels not only can damage the artery but also can make any fatty deposits travel through the blood easier to attach on the walls of arteries. As a result, this can speed the process of accumulation of fatty deposits on the artery’s walls.

So, having a good control of your blood pressure can help for your cholesterol control. In fact, people with hypertension (a medical term used to call high blood pressure) are more likely to get high cholesterol than others without hypertension.

Back to salt …  As well we know that diet high in salt is bad for your blood pressure. Excessive consumption of salt from your diet can raise your blood pressure level higher than normal. And high blood pressure can bring lots of complications.

The key is the ability of salt that can retain fluid in your body. If there are too many fluid retained by salt, the pressure inside the blood vessels can increase. As a result, this can lead to hypertension if left untreated. In fact, restricting salt in the diet is one of common home remedies and lifestyle approaches recommended by lots of doctor for people with hypertension.

And how about sugar – Does diet high in sugar affect your cholesterol?

Excessive sugar in the blood can damage the lining of arteries in long term.

This damage can cause narrowed arteries which then can affect the blood flow and eventually can speed up the accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of arteries.