Too much cholesterol in your blood can lead to cardiovascular disease, the main cause of death in the United States. But lowering your levels can reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Lower your risks and become healthier by adopting these prevention and treatment tips from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Mayo Clinic.
1. Follow Doctor’s Orders
Work with your physician to determine your heart health risks and the best approaches to manage them. Your program will include regular checkups and health screenings including blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Follow your doctor’s advice carefully. If you don’t understand something, request clarification. He may prescribe Lipitor(Atorvastatin), a statin drug that lowers cholesterol. Learn the correct way to take Lipitor and all your other medications, and stay on schedule.
2. Know Your Fats
Your body produces cholesterol naturally. Saturated fat from animal products and trans fat from fried foods and baked goods raise your blood cholesterol level even further. The AHA recommends reducing saturated fats to no more than five to six percent of total calories. If you eat 2000 calories a day, that’s about 11 to 13 grams. Also decrease your percentage of calories from trans fat. The majority of fats you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated mainly from fish, avocados, olives, walnuts, and vegetable oils including soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive, and sunflower.
3. Cook to Lower Cholesterol
The AHA recommends a heart-healthy diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts. Enjoy whole fruit, not juice, at breakfast. Use low-fat or fat-free instead of high-fat dairy products. Limit red meat and fried foods. Make meatless meals with vegetables or beans. Remove fat from cooking stock before making gravy. Increase fiber and whole grains. Substitute uncooked oatmeal for breadcrumbs. Eat brown instead of white rice. Switch to whole-grain pasta. Restrict sugary foods and beverages. Replace oil in cake, muffin, and cookie recipes with applesauce or pureed bananas.
4. Refine Your Lifestyle
Being overweight increases bad and total cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic, a man is overweight if his waist measures over 40 inches. For a woman, over 35 inches is dangerous. Reducing your weight by just five to 10 percent can help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes risks.
Just 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise three to four times a week can decrease your cholesterol and blood pressure. Try brisk walking, swimming, bicycling, or dancing. If you smoke, high cholesterol is another good reason to quit. Also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
5. Avoid Common Cholesterol Stereotypes
If you think high cholesterol is just a heavy, middle-aged man’s problem, you’re wrong. Overweight and older people are more likely to have high cholesterol, but it affects every body type and age. If you’re thin and don’t gain weight easily, you’re less aware of how many unhealthy fats you eat. Fit young men and women may develop high cholesterol early, due to family histories. Older women may find that their cholesterol levels rise after menopause. Everyone should start cholesterol blood tests at age 20, regardless of weight, gender, diet, and physical activity.