Author: Samuel Gerson, MD
September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month. So, what is cholesterol and what are some of the ways to lower or maintain healthy numbers?
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that’s located in your blood. Your body naturally makes cholesterol, but you also get some from the foods you consume. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and healthy cells. If you have too much of the wrong type of cholesterol, it can cause some health problems.
There are two types of cholesterol in your body:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Is the unhealthy kind that can clog arteries.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): Is the healthy kind that helps to clear the LDL out of your arteries.
Why you want to maintain good levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol is because too much can clog your arteries and leave deposits, also referred to as plaques. They harden and narrow your arteries, allowing less blood to flow through them. Not only does this raise your risk of overall heart disease, but sometimes a piece of plaque breaks open and blood clot forms which may lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Here are 5 ways to lower your cholesterol.
- Avoid Saturated and Trans Fats: Foods that are high in saturated and trans fats can raise LDL levels. Saturated foods include: red meat, full-fat dairy like whole milk and cream cheese, and processed meats like hot dogs and pepperoni. Trans fats include: fast food, fried food, and packaged baked goods like cookies and chips. Although some cholesterol in your diet is fine, try to consume in moderation.
- Exercise: We all know exercise is important in everyday health, but it can also boost your HDL cholesterol. Try to get 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week.
- Control your Weight: Have your BMI tested and maintain a healthy weight for your height, age, etc.
- Don’t Smoke: Smoking damages your blood vessels and speeds the buildup of plaques inside your arteries. Talk to your healthcare providers about the ways to quit or stop smoking.
- Prescription Drugs: Sometimes all the above things aren’t enough and you need to take cholesterol-lowering drugs. Some of these drugs lower LDL, while others increase HDL and a few do both.
You can lower your bad cholesterol – and raise your good cholesterol – with simple lifestyle changes. If you notice these are not enough, speak with your healthcare provider about prescription medications.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.