If you have just learned that you should reduce your cholesterol level, what will your first step be?
Cholesterol is found in all parts of the human body. It plays an essential role in the production of hormones and other functions. It is normally produced by the liver and intestines, but it can also be ingested from animal-derived foods. Cholesterol is found in animal fat, which may be consumed directly, or indirectly, as ingredients in food. Too much cholesterol may lead to a buildup of plaque inside the arteries, which is a risk factor for a heart attack or stroke. But, keep in mind that having high cholesterol numbers does not equate to having heart disease, and having normal cholesterol numbers does not necessarily mean there's no risk.
Let’s take a closer look at high cholesterol treatments and ways to prevent exacerbating your condition.
Watch Your Diet
To keep your heart healthy and lower you cholesterol levels you should limit the intake of saturated fats and trans fats. Without fats and oils our bodies would not function properly, but you need to get the balance right. Saturated fats raise the level of cholesterol in the blood and they occur naturally in many foods, in most cases they come from animal sources.
In North America and Europe, the normal diet is heavily based on animal foods, such as meat, egg yolks, poultry, seafood, and milk products. You should turn to fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans. Nuts like peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts are proven to lower the LDL cholesterol levels – just don’t pack these into your diet, since they are rich in calories. About one ounce of nuts daily is good. Limit red meat and pork; instead, choose lean meat and poultry without skin. Also fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids – like salmon and cod – are beneficial. Use vegetable oils, like olive oil and rapeseed oil, and it is better to avoid tropical oils. The saturated fatty acid-rich tropical oils, like coconut oil, hydrogenated coconut oil, and palm kernel oil, raise cholesterol levels. Palm oil, specifically, raises plasma cholesterol only when an excess of cholesterol is present in the diet.
The American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of one’s total calories from saturated fat. So, with a diet of 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fats; that’s approximately 13 grams of saturated fats a day. Trans fats should also be avoided. The primary dietary source for trans fats in processed food is “partially hydrogenated oils." Avoid fried food like doughnuts, and baked goods, including cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, frozen pizza, cookies, and crackers. Stick margarines are not good either. Always read the package information for the amount of trans fats in a product.
Be Physically Active
Regular exercise also lowers bad cholesterol. You can start walking briskly, climbing stairs, and swimming. Choose an activity that boosts your heart rate, like aerobics. This could increase your good cholesterol by 5% in the first two months. In line with that, losing weight can help you reduce the levels of triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol. Shedding even a few pounds can also boost the levels of good cholesterol -- it tends to go up one point for every six pounds lost.
People with elevated stress tend to have lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. The amount of stress isn't as important as how you deal with it. So if you get angry, hostile, or blame yourself instead of solving the problem, it may result in higher blood pressure, higher blood glucose levels, and lower HDL cholesterol levels. The more hostile you are, the worse the LDL and triglyceride levels.