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Reduce Bad Cholesterol

September 24, 2010

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            High cholesterol is a major concern in today’s society. With many people relying on fast food, fried foods and baked foods the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, heart attack and stroke are more prominent. So what can people do avoid the risks and how can you bring down your high levels of cholesterol so you are no longer at risk?

            Cholesterol is most commonly known by the lipoproteins that carry it in the blood. HDL and LDL are two most commonly known lipoproteins because they are coined “good” and “bad” cholesterol. HDL or good cholesterol helps reduce the risk for heart disease and arthrosclerosis because it removes excess cholesterol from the blood stream and excretes it through the liver. LDL, the bad cholesterol is more prominent in the body mainly due to the excess cholesterol we take in through the food that we eat. LDL gets stuck in the blood vessels and becomes the plaque, which causes artery blockage. Therefore LDL increases the risk for heart disease, arthrosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.

            Because our diet plays a major role in how much cholesterol we take in, it is the first place to look at when determining how to reduce cholesterol levels. Cholesterol comes from animal sterols. Therefore cholesterol mainly comes from dairy, meat, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood.  So changing your diet is the number one way to reduce your fat and cholesterol intake. This doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian or completely cut out foods you like to eat. However, changing your daily intake of meat, poultry and dairy can reduce your cholesterol intake. It is recommended to take in 200mg or less to reduce your cholesterol levels.

            Additionally specific foods have been proven to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart related diseases. High fiber foods have shown to reduce LDL levels in the body. Most people don’t get enough fiber in their diet on a regular basis. Foods high in fiber include oats, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. To notice a reduction in LDL cholesterol it is recommended to eat between 5-10 grams of soluble fiber a day. Omega-3 fatty acids are also a great reducer of cholesterol. Fish is a great source of fatty acids. Recommendations are to eat at least 2 servings per week. Some of the fish with the highest levels of omega-3’s are halibut, salmon, tuna, sardines and lake trout. Nuts are also another great source of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts are all great sources of fatty acids. Eating a handful a day or about 1.5 ounces can reduce your cholesterol and your risk for heart disease. Avoid nuts covered in salt or sugar and remember that although good for the heart they are high in calories, so watch how much you eat. Lastly monounsaturated fats found in canola oil, olive oil and avocado oil also reduce the LDL cholesterol. Also remember with these oils are high in calories so limit your daily intake to 2 tablespoons. To increase the affect of lowering cholesterol use extra virgin olive oil because it is less processed leaving the rich antioxidants in the oil.

            Now you have changed your diet but your cholesterol is still high, where do you go from here? Even though your diet is a contributing factor to your LDL cholesterol, your weight is also an important factor that adds to your cholesterol levels. By carrying around excess weight you are putting yourself at risk for all sorts of health problems including high cholesterol. It’s time to get off your lazy butt and exercise. Exercise not only has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol but it actually increases HDL or good cholesterol. Not only does it strengthen the heart and lungs, it decreases the risk for heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. Just by losing that extra 10 pounds you can reduce your cholesterol as well as reducing your risk for potential health problems in the future.  Thirty to 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day has is recommended to see a change in your LDL and HDL levels.

            And if these changes are still not enough for you, you may want to quit smoking. Smoking restricts the blood vessels that deliver blood throughout the body. If you blood vessels are already restricted due to plaque build up you are increasing your risk for heart attack or stroke by smoking. Once you stop smoking there is an immediate change in blood pressure and HDL levels and that’s regardless of the reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Another option would be to limit your alcohol intake. Although there has been some signs that minimal alcohol intake can increase HDL levels its not enough to start drinking or drink every day. Plus there is no proof that drinking alcohol lowers LDL cholesterol.  Therefore drinking alcohol should be limited to 1 drink a day to avoid the risk of other health problems such as liver disease.

            Remember there are so many options out there for you to reduce your cholesterol levels. Consult your doctor if you decide to change your activity level or protocol. If you are taking medication for high cholesterol, always check with your doctor before you stop taking it. For concerns about diet plans or exercise routines speak with a nutritionist or personal trainer.