Cholesterol CheckDecember 21, 2014
We’ve all seen the commercials reminding us that our cholesterol levels aren’t just determined by what we eat. It turns out genetics play a large roll, and medication may be necessary to treat high cholesterol in the end. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to improve or maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol that’s found in the blood comes from both dietary intake and liver production. The liver produces cholesterol because our bodies need it. In the right levels, cholesterol is not a bad guy. It is used by our bodies to make cellular membranes and helps with hormone production. Where things often go wrong is when we take in too much dietary cholesterol for our livers to break down and get rid of.
When there is too much LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) in our blood, it can build up in the artery walls and cause hardening or blockage, which can lead to heart attacks. In addition, when we have low HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) levels, our bodies will have a harder time removing LDL cholesterol from our arteries and transporting it to the liver for breakdown and disposal. The only way to know your cholesterol levels, and whether or not you’re at risk for heart disease, is to get tested by your doctor. There are no physical symptoms of high blood cholesterol, and you can’t assume that because you’re healthy, young, or physically active you don’t have high LDL or low HDL levels.
Still, there are several lifestyle changes that can improve your chances of maintaining healthy levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol. Many of these changes are highly recommended by doctors as a first course of treatment if you are diagnosed with unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. Often, making even a few small changes can improve your levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. And if you have healthy levels of cholesterol already, but aren’t following these recommendations, making the following changes could decrease your risk for developing unhealthy cholesterol levels in the future.
Decrease your saturated fat intake. Saturated fat is suspected to stimulate the liver’s production of cholesterol. Reducing your intake of dietary fat, particularly saturated fat, can limit the liver’s cholesterol production to only what the body needs to perform its daily functions.
Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, decreasing your weight can improve your LDL levels. If you are currently at a healthy weight, take whatever steps necessary to maintain that weight, which in turn could decrease your risk for high cholesterol.
Increase your fiber intake. Research has shown that a diet high in soluble fiber, found in foods such as oatmeal, beans and citrus fruits, can decrease blood cholesterol levels.
Increase physical activity. Getting more physical activity can decrease weight, which can help improve your LDL levels. In addition, regular exercise has been found to increase HDL levels, which can assist in removing LDL from your blood.
Stop smoking. Smoking works against the other positive lifestyle changes. It can decrease HDL levels, and increase your risk for blood clots.
While lifestyle changes are a first line of defense and can be extremely important in improving your cholesterol levels and decreasing your risk for heart disease, remember that they may not be enough. Consult with your doctor regularly to determine if there is a need to use medication in order to control your cholesterol. But know that even with drugs, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep your cholesterol levels in check.This entry was posted in Fitness, General, Nutrition, Weight Loss. Bookmark the permalink. ← Feed the Soul Newsletter, Fall Issue 1 Winter Newsletter →