Cholesterol itself isn’t bad. We all have and need this wax-like substance in our bodies. It consists of high density lipoproteins (HDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides. The LDL and triglyceride cholesterol levels are the most crucial in regards to heart disease. About 80% of the body’s cholesterol is produced by the liver, while the rest comes from our diet.
Learn how you can take control of your cholesterol levels with these 10 tips.
Know where you stand! Do you actually know your cholesterol levels? Unless you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure etc, you probably don’t know where you stand. Here, I would highly recommend getting regular check ups to monitor both your HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein). Following is a low down of what to look out for:
- Total cholesterol should not exceed 200 mg/dL
- LDL or bad cholesterol is below 130 mg/dL
- HDL or good cholesterol should be 40 or more.
Keep Active 20-30min per day. Ok here I am not talking about hitting the gym or joining the next fitness program. To increase your HDL, any form of exercise or physical activity will do the trick. Recent evidence suggests that the duration of exercise, rather than the intensity, is the more important factor in raising HDL choleserol. But any aerobic exercise helps, including walking.
Add soluble fiber to your diet.. Did you know you that vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels and lower heart disease rates than meat eaters. That’s in part because vegetarians consume so much fiber. Adding soluble fibers like flaxseeds, oats, fruits, nuts etc can help to both reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. How cool is that! If you can, try to include fibers whenever you can. Consuming about 15 g of soluble fiber a day can lower LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent.
Lose weight! When you are overweight, your access weight may disrupt your body’s ability to metabolize fat. Good news is that you don’t have to lose the weight radically, by simply losing 1-2kg per year may reduce your risk of high blood pressure by 25 percent and your risk of diabetes by 35 percent.
Know your fats! Hmm some are good, some are bad? Well yes and no. Let’s take a look at the various fats and how they can influence your cholesterol.
- Saturated fats (Bad): Raise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol. Mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Also found in plants such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
- Trans fats (Bad): Raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Trans fatty acids are found in commercially packaged foods like french fries, donuts or popcorn.
- Monounsaturated fats: Can help to lower LDL and raise HDL. Examples are canola oil, peanut butter or olive oil.
- Polyunsaturated fats: Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group.
Fats are still fats Good or bad fats? Well end of the day all fats contain calories. How many? 1g of fats (any kind) contain 9 calories. So although olive oil is cholesterol free, too much of it will cause you to gain weight which ultimately will increase your cholesterol. So be sure to keep your calorie intake and overall weight in check.
Take a good MultiVitamin. No matter how careful you are with your calorie intake, good fats, bad fat etc, you may still have micro-nutritional deficiencies in your diet which may add to your problem. A good multivitamin supplement not only helps with your overall need for vitamins and minerals but can also help to lower your risk of heart disease. Look for a multivitamin that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid, 2 mg of vitamin B6, and 6 micrograms of vitamin B12.
Are you stessed? Stress and anxiety cause chemicals to be released into your body, raising your blood pressure, and reduce blood flow to your heart. Avoid stressful situations and use techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and other similar techniques. This helps your body to deal with stress and minimize the effects on your body.
Go for fish. Why? Well for their cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil. Salmon would be a great choice here and if possible go for grilled or steamed fish. The reason here is obvious.
Alternative treatment? In today’s world, there are a variety of cholesterol drugs, supplements and treatments available. Basically there are two types, those that try to lower LDL and others that try to raise HDL. Lets take a look at both:
- LDL Lowering Drugs: The most widely used medications are the statins (lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, and atorvastatin), marketed under names like Lipitor, Mevacor, and Zocor. Other available drugs are gemfibrozil, fenofibrate and clofibrate. These fibric acid derivatives are primarily used for lowering high triglyceride levels.
- HDL Raising Drugs: Drug therapy for raising HDL cholesterol levels has, so far, been less successful than for reducing LDL cholesterol. Of the drugs used to treat cholesterol, niacin appears to be the most effective at raising HDL levels. Niacin is one of the B vitamins. But the amount of niacin needed to raise HDL levels are so high, that it is classified as a drug when used for this purpose.
…all adults age 20 and over should have their cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years…
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