Have high cholesterol? Wondering what to do about it? Even with all of the attention given to cholesterol now a days, many people are still wondering exactly what cholesterol is and, most of all, how it affects their bodies. Cholesterol is a waxy lipid (a fat) that naturally circulates in the blood. It is an important part of many body functions, including digestion, the manufacturing of vitamin D and the making of sex hormones. It is found in every cell of the body as part of the cell's wall. However, like anything else, cholesterol levels that are too high are a danger signal. How high is too high? Total cholesterol levels should be less than 200, with total cholesterol being a combination of LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol.
Excess cholesterol poses many significant dangers, especially to heart health. As the blood levels increase, the extra cholesterol builds up on the walls of the arteries, clogging them. Often, this will lead to a stroke or a heart attack, as the blood backs up behind the blockage and clots there. Warning signs of high cholesterol include chest pain, a family history of high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking and a diet high in saturated fats. If any of these risk factors are present, especially in combination, a visit to the physician to determine cholesterol levels is recommended.
One of the best interventions for high cholesterol is adopting a diet to lower cholesterol. Just about any diet (e. g. Atkins, Weight Watchers diets. . . ) can be adapted to function as a diet to lower high cholesterol. The secret lies in ensuring that the diet includes the following things: low-fat foods, high-fiber foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced salt and sugar, legumes and nuts. Try to avoid processed meats, whole milk products, eggs, fatty meats, bakery goods and fried foods or enjoy them in moderation. Eating foods like oatmeal, oat bran, artichokes, baked fish, whole-grain products and unsaturated oils will benefit both heart health and cholesterol levels.
Switching to a diet to lower high cholesterol does not have to mean the end of the world. Simple substitutes for less desirable foods are readily available in any supermarket. Purchasing fat-free milk, low-fat cheeses and butter substitutes instead of whole milk products is a huge step. Lean cuts of meat, baked fish, fresh fruits, soy products, beans and peas, green vegetables, nuts and seeds all fortify the diet to lower cholesterol, giving the heart one of the best types of protection. Simple changes in cooking techniques can also make a huge difference. Drain grease when cooking, regulate portion sizes, bake or broil foods instead of frying them, use vegetable oil when cooking, trim off fats and avoid adding extra salt or sugar.
In addition to diet modifications, there are many other ways to help lower cholesterol. A balanced aerobic exercise routine has unbelievable benefits, including weight loss and better circulation. Walking, running and swimming are all good forms of exercise and burn excess calories at the same time. Quitting smoking is also another excellent way to improve the health of blood vessels and decrease the risk of stroke. Medications, such as Lipitor, to lower high cholesterol are used as a last resort. Usually a diet to lower high cholesterol combined with exercise will do the trick. So, take the first step to heart health now and go have a cholesterol level done. It just may be the best thing you've done for your body in a long time. And who knows, there may still be time to work on prevention, starting with a diet to lower cholesterol levels.
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