Cholesterol Education Month

You probably have heard about cholesterol, but you might not be sure exactly what it is. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in animal-based foods that we eat and in our body’s cells. Our bodies need some cholesterol to function normally. Cholesterol is used to make hormones, vitamin D and plays a role in digestion. Cholesterol production is so crucial that your liver and intestines produce about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Only about 20% comes from the foods you eat.

But too much cholesterol can pose a problem. When your diet consists of foods high in saturated and trans fats, your liver makes more cholesterol than it otherwise would. This added production means some people go from a normal cholesterol level to an unhealthy one.

 Factors that may increase the risk for high cholesterol include

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Some medicines
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Smoking

You have been diagnosed with high cholesterol; what can you do?

    1. Eat heart-healthy foods

  • Reduce saturated fats.Found in red meat and full-fat dairy products.
  • Eliminate transfats.Found in margarine and store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.Found in wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
  • Increase soluble fiber.Found in oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears.
  • Add whey protein.Found in yogurt.
  1. Increase your physical activity

Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. After checking with your health care provider, incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.

  1. Quit smoking

Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level. Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.

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  1. Lose weight

Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol.

 If lifestyle changes aren’t enough –

Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower cholesterol levels. If your health care provider recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed while continuing your lifestyle changes.

Nathan Murray, PA-C
Marlow Family Care

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