Have you received a note from your doctor that you need to keep an eye on your cholesterol? Well, you are not alone. About 38% of American adults have high cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all of your body’s cells. It’s normal to have cholesterol. In fact, your liver is in charge of making all of the cholesterol your body needs. Some people are genetically predisposed to have higher than normal cholesterol, while others partake in lifestyle habits that can increase cholesterol in the bloodstream.
So why do you need to keep any eye on it?
Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body because it’s used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and serves other needed bodily functions, such as assisting with the digestion of dietary fat. However, too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and for stroke, both of which are the two leading causes of death in the United States.
A quick science lesson.
Cholesterol can’t dissolve in the blood. Instead, it has to be transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as “bad” cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as “good” cholesterol. These two types of lipids, along with triglycerides, make up your total cholesterol count. Total cholesterol is calculated using this formula:
HDL + LDL + 20% of Triglycerides = Total Cholesterol
If your doctor is telling you to keep an eye on your cholesterol, they likely mean that it is time for some healthy changes. The good news is that some straightforward lifestyle changes can significantly improve your numbers!
TIPS FOR LOWERING CHOLESTEROL
- Stay physically active. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity more days of the week than not. This doesn't have to mean a trip to the gym. Instead, take a walk around your neighborhood, go for a bike ride, swim laps at the local pool—whatever sounds fun to you!
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat. (Check out the next section for some guidelines.)
- Manage your weight. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your total cholesterol. Weight management is especially important for those with high triglycerides and/or low HDL levels. Even a small amount of weight loss (7-10%) can make a big impact on these numbers. (Steps one and two on this list can help you get there!)
- Speak with your doctor. It's always a good idea to check-in with your primary care provider for advice on lowering your cholesterol.
As the saying goes, what you put in is what you get out. This is true when it comes to your diet's role in your total cholesterol, HDL, and LDL readings. Again, the good news here is that there are dietary choices that you can make that will significantly and positively impact your cholesterol.
FOOD TIPS FOR LOWERING CHOLESTEROL
- Choose lean cuts of meat and avoid trans fats found in fried and processed foods.
- Use nonfat or low-fat dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Trim fat from meat before cooking and use healthier cooking methods: bake, broil, stew, grill.
- Go fish! Aim to eat fish at least 2x/week to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Focus on fiber. Increase fiber intake, especially soluble fiber found in oatmeal, beans, fruits and vegetables. Aim for 20-35 grams of fiber/day.
- Enjoy more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains each day.
Just like with most things, it is important to be armed with the knowledge that helps you prevent any major health complications. Cholesterol plays a significant role in risk for heart disease and other health complications. So knowing the risk range for cholesterol can help you work alongside your doctor to take proactive action for your health.
Because cholesterol can be impacted by various factors, both lifestyle and hereditary, it is always important to get support when and where you need it. That is why our experts are here to help! Click HERE to learn more about our services at Wellview.