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Lowering Cholesterol

Charlyn Fargo on

Need to improve your cholesterol?

There are lots of us in that same lunchroom. More than a third of American adults have high levels of unhealthy cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cholesterol -- a white, waxy substance -- is known to be an artery clogger, sort of like the buildup of plaque on your teeth.

After my recent yearly physical, I joined the club. My longtime, trusted physician explained my cholesterol levels were "too high" to be solved through diet alone. (But really, I'm a dietitian and I know how to eat, I protested). He wrote a script for a low-dose statin, which the nurse told me to take at bedtime. Who knew our bodies make cholesterol at night?

High cholesterol is in my genes, at least on my mother's side. She suffered from heart problems much of her life and eventually died of heart disease.

Here are a few things I've learned about cholesterol: Every cell in your body contains it, and it's an important building block for tissues that make up our organs. While I have high high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol (considered the "good" kind), I also have high low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol (considered the "bad" one). Too much LDL cholesterol can attach to the walls of blood vessels and lead to heart disease. The HDL cholesterol helps transport LDL cholesterol to the liver and out of the body.

Simple dietary changes can help reduce cholesterol levels by up to 30%, so I'm more determined than ever to do that. These changes include eating foods lower in saturated fat, avoiding trans fat in foods, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly (and more than I have been).

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Here are some other tips I'm giving myself and sharing with you, just in case you're on this journey as well:

-- Boost your soluble fiber intake to three servings a day. Soluble fiber is in foods such as oatmeal, oat bran, barley, beans (kidney, black, navy), flaxseed, chia seed and many fruits and vegetables.

-- Increase consumption of whole-grain foods -- whole wheat pasta, brown rice, high-fiber cereals.

-- Try psyllium, which is found in fiber supplements such as Metamucil, as a way to boost both insoluble and soluble fiber.

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