Cholesterol

Did you know that cholesterol comes from two sources, food and family history? Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your own body; only about 25% of blood cholesterol comes from the food you eat.

Typically high cholesterol has no direct symptoms, but cholesterol may still do damage to blood vessels. When blood flows through vessels, it carries many important things the body needs to functions such as oxygen and cholesterol. So, problems with blood vessels can lead to heart disease and stroke.

LDL is often called “bad cholesterol.” Too much LDL can build up in the body and form a thick, hard substance that clogs your blood vessels and blocks the flow of blood to your heart and brain. HDL is often called “good cholesterol.” HDL helps the body get rid of the LDL cholesterol. HDL collect excess cholesterol the LDL has left behind. Triglycerides are a form of fat. Patients can sometimes have elevated Triglycerides. Triglycerides travel in the bloodstream to be used for energy or stored as body fat. Unhealthy levels of cholesterol may be caused by poor eating habits or the liver and body cells may make too much (a problem that often runs in families).

If your cholesterol level is too high, you could be heading for a heart attack or stroke without knowing it. High LDL cholesterol is one risk factor for heart disease. Other risk factors, such as diabetes, also put people at a higher risk. Overeating and lack of exercise can also impact your cholesterol, but typically your family history contributes more to your cholesterol levels.

Take Action to Control Your Cholesterol

Although there is no cure for high cholesterol, it can be controlled. Lifestyle changes and medicine, if needed, can help restore your body’s cholesterol balance while helping to control other risk factors.

Lack of physical activity has been shown to double a person’s risk of getting heart disease. When combined with a low fat diet, regular activity can help you decrease your total cholesterol level, increase your HDL level, and lose weight. Other benefits include the prevention of bone loss and increased muscle strength. Exercise may also help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, depression and anxiety.

Health experts recommend adding 2 ½ hours of steady walking (or other activities) to your weekly schedule. Here are some ways to fit in walking and regular activity weekly:

  • Choose five days each week and walk briskly for 30 minutes on each day. Take the dog and/or the kids.
  • Choose three days each week and walk briskly for 50 minutes.
  • At work, walk 10-15 minutes during your break and 15 minutes before you go home.
  • Use exercise equipment while listening to music or watching television. Get up during television commercials.
  • Work in the garden.
  • Walk or bike to the store instead of driving.
  • Park ½ mile to 1 mile away at the mall or at the office; this means a 10-20 minute walk twice a day.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk to deliver messages at work.
  • Join a fitness center near your home or work.
  • Schedule exercise time on your calendar, regard it as important as any other appointment.

Remember to stop exercising and consult a doctor is you have any of the following:

  • Tightness, discomfort, or pain in your chest.
  • Excessive shortness of breath.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Dizziness or nausea.
  • Long lasting ankle or knee pain.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Cold sweat or disorientation.

Eat Healthy & Cook Right

To adapt your favorite recipes, try baking, steaming, broiling, or microwaving instead of frying. Frying adds fat to naturally healthy, low fat foods. So do gravies and cream sauces. A few changes in the way you cook can cut fat and calories without cutting flavor.

  • Broil, grill, or bake poultry, fish, and meat. Remove the skin and trim all visible fat before cooking.
  • Marinate for flavor. Try low sodium teriyaki or soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, wine, or salsa.
  • Brown meat and poultry under the broiler or sauté in a little broth, wine, or water instead of frying in oil. Use vegetable cooking sprays instead of oil and butter to coat pans.
  • Spoon natural cooking juices, instead of gravy or cream sauce, over meat and poultry.
  • Chill soups and stews and skim the fat before reheating and serving.
  • Steam or microwave vegetables with out adding fat or salt, or sauté with cooking spray or low sodium broth.

By making a few changes in the way you cook, you can still enjoy good taste while helping control your weight and high blood pressure. Choose less fatty foods; eat more vegetable and fewer sweets.

Eat Well When Eating Out

Be aware of what you order. This means avoid fried, sautéed, and breaded foods. Also avoid cream and butter sauces, salty soups and meats, and sweet, creamy desserts. Instead choose clears soups and while at the salad bar stay away from toppings or dressings made with mayonnaise. Order salad dressings and sauces on the side and use only a little of them. Consider ordering an appetizer for the main course or sharing a main dish. Some restaurants will put half of the portion in a doggie bag for later. If you want dessert consider ordering fresh fruit, angel food cake, fruit ice, or nonfat frozen yogurt.

Many restaurants now offer low fat, low cholesterol alternatives. Ask your waiter or waitress if they have suggestions or if such items are marked or separated on the menu.

Sometimes exercise and diet aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medicine to lower your cholesterol levels more. When taking any medicine, be sure to take it as directed by your physician.

 

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