National Cholesterol Month

Watch your cholesterol. Lower your cholesterol. We have all heard these words. But just what is cholesterol, and why is it so important to monitor?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in our blood that helps our body make cell membranes, many hormones, and vitamin D. Derived from two sources: the foods we eat and our liver. Our liver makes all the cholesterol our body needs.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High HDL cholesterol levels can lower your heart disease and stroke risk.  Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sometimes known as “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of our body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.

How to manage your cholesterol

Try these five healthy lifestyle changes.

Eat heart-healthy foods

Reduce or eliminate your intake of processed meats such as hotdogs, sausages, and lunch meats. When choosing red meat or dairy products, grass-fed and pasture-raised varieties have been shown to have healthier concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids compared to their grain-fed counterparts.

Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats are found in margarine and store-bought cookies. The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils by Jan. 1, 2021.

Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have heart-healthy benefits, including reducing blood pressure. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon (important this is Wild caught as farm-raised salmon is higher in omega-6s and not omega-3s), walnuts, and flaxseeds.

Increase soluble fiber, which can reduce cholesterol absorption into the bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found in oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, and apples.

Increase your physical activity

Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise HDL levels. With your healthcare provider’s approval, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.

Quit smoking

Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level.

Lose weight

Those few extra pounds can contribute to high cholesterol. One tip, if you drink sugary beverages, switch to tap water.

Abbie McLemore, APRN-CNP
Ringling Family Care

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