Having high cholesterol levels can nearly double your risk for developing heart disease. The good news is that high cholesterol is a modifiable risk factor and every 1% reduction in your total cholesterol can lower your risk of heart disease 2% to 5%.
Know Your Cholesterol Numbers Most of the time there are no symptoms associated with elevated cholesterol. Serum cholesterol tends to increase with age, especially among women, who have reduced estrogen levels as they reach menopause. This is why it is important to have your blood levels checked regularly by your health care provider. Here are the cholesterol numbers you should know. Total Cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dl is a desirable level that puts you at lower risk for coronary heart disease. A cholesterol level of 200 mg/dl or higher raises your risk HDL (Good) Cholesterol 60 mg/dl and above is considered protective against heart disease. Less than 40mg/dl (for men) and less than 50mg/dl (for women) are considered to be a major risk factor for heart disease LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Less than 100mg/dl is optimal, 200 to 99 mg/dL and 160 to 189 mg/dl is considered to be high Triglycerides Less than 100 mg/dl is optimal. High triglyceride levels combined with low HDL or high LDL can increase risk for heart disease *Information is adapted from the American Heart Association How You Can Lower your Cholesterol Limit your saturated fat and trans fat intake
- Dietary saturated fats are actually much more dangerous than dietary cholesterol in terms of raising LDL.
- Saturated fats are found in: red meats, whole-milk dairy products such as butter, cream and cheese, coconut oil, palm oil, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and pastries.
- Trans fats are chemically engineered fats that help to increase the shelf life of foods. These fats increase your LDL and decrease HDL. Always make sure to read the food label and if possible, avoid all Trans fats.
Choose THIS White-meat chicken, lean turkey meat without the skin 92-99% lean ground beef Egg whites or substitutes Baked, grilled, steamed or roasted cooking methods Fat-free or low-fat dairy products Fresh fruit and vegetables Instead of THIS Red meat, dark meat chicken Regular ground beef Whole eggs with yolks Fried foods Whole milk dairy products Pastries, potato chips and other snack foods Opt for healthy MUFAs (monounsaturated fats) MUFAs can actually lower total cholesterol and increase good, HDL cholesterol. Try to include a few servings of these foods into your diet: Nuts, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, cashew nuts, hazelnuts (remember, keep nut servings to ¼ cup), avocado oil, canola oil, olive oil. Remember:
- Just 1 tablespoon of oil contains approximately 120 calories and 14 grams of fat- although it is a healthier fat you still need to use it in small amounts.
- Include Omega-3 fatty acids
- Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that aid in lowering total and LDL cholesterol. Food sources include: Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring), flax seed oil, canola and soybean oil, flax seeds, walnuts.
- Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber/day
- Increasing dietary fiber intake can result in lower cholesterol levels,
- Eat beans (kidney, lentils, black beans, chickpeas), whole-grain cereals, oatmeal, quinoa, fruits (pears, raspberries, blackberries, apple) and vegetables.
- Aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables/day.
- Exercise regularly
- Regular exercise can help reduce cholesterol. Aim for at 200 to 300 minutes each week.
Weight Management If you are overweight, simply shedding 5 to 10% of your weight can significantly reduce your blood cholesterol. Cutting 500 calories/day can promote a 1 lb weight loss/week. Make healthier lifestyle choices:
- Avoid smoking and drinking excess alcohol.
- Always compare food labels when shopping—pick foods low in saturated and trans fats.
- Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Follow these healthy lifestyle guidelines to help keep your numbers under control, regardless of what your family history is.
This article was originally published by Penn Medecine