By Aldo Guevara, MD and Nena Korunda, MD, FACP – Korunda Medical Institute –
Has your doctor advised you to reduce your cholesterol level? That is no surprise considering how many people have high cholesterol these days.
It seems that everyone is concerned about high cholesterol, and rightfully so. High cholesterol can cause clogged blood vessels, leading to heart attack and stroke. According to health experts, total cholesterol should be under 200 mg./dl. Between 200 and 239 is considered borderline high, and over 240 or above is considered high. These numbers are measures of total cholesterol, which is an indicator of cardiovascular health. However, in addition to total cholesterol, it is important that both the LDL or bad cholesterol be at a low level and that HDL or good cholesterol be at a higher level. Simply think of HDL as “healthy” and LDL as “lousy.” HDL actually helps carry cholesterol out of your blood vessels while LDL allows it to deposit inside your artery walls.
LDL Cholesterol is known as low density lipo-protein cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is bad for the body because it circulates in the blood stream and settles as plaque on the artery walls. Over a long period plaque can build up to a point where the artieries can narrow or close, leading to a heart attack or stroke. LDL cholesterol should be lower than 100 mg./dl.
Good cholesterol is known as HDL or high density lipo-protein cholesterol. This type of lipo-protein picks up cholesterol in the blood and brings it to the liver where it is broken down and passes out of the body. For this reason, it is desirable to have a high level of HDL. The desired level of HDL cholesterol differs in men and women. For men, the desired level of HDL is above 40 and in women the level should be above 50. Ideally HDL cholesterol should be at 60 or above for optimal health.
For most health related issues, diet and exercise are two of the most crucial components. What you eat is critical to lowering your cholesterol levels, so let’s focus on that for now.
Eating the proper foods can go a long way in preventing high cholesterol. Choosing lots of fresh vegetables and fruit can help lower the cholesterol because they contain fiber. Beans and legumes are also good choices. Whole grains like whole wheat and oats also help keep cholesterol low.
To help lower your cholesterol, here are 10 simple tips you can use live a healthier life. The good news is that you can change your cholesterol largely by changing your eating habits. Let’s take a look at some of the tips you can start applying today:
1. Have a nice sandwich on whole wheat bread or a pita with some lean turkey and lots of fresh veggies such as lettuce and tomatoes. Skip the hot dogs, bologna, and salami, and hold the mayo. All of those things are processed foods that are filled with fat and cholesterol.
2. Fish such as salmon is good. Look for wild red salmon varieties, which are very high in Omega-3 fatty acids (good fat.) Also, flax seed is a good source of Omega-3s.
3. Avoid trans fats! Not only do they raise the lousy LDL cholesterol, they can also lower your HDL levels! Stay away from foods like margarine, shortening, and processed foods containing partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Most products you find in the grocery stores should have the amount of trans fats indicated on the nutritional information.
4. Nuts are good for you. Look for walnuts mainly but also try almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, and pecans. Nuts are high in fat, but it’s the good kind. Also, use natural peanut butter instead of the normal kind which contains unhealthy trans fats.
5. Cut down on the sweet desserts and try to eat only the healthier ones like angel food cake, graham crackers, Jell-O, and fat-free frozen yogurt.
6. Eat foods that are high in fiber. For instance, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, beans, and some cereals are good. (Look for the boxes that say “may help lower cholesterol.”)
7. Use the grill instead of the deep fryer. If you’re going to have steak or burgers, grill them at home and use lean meat. This practice avoids the grease, is fun, and the meat tastes great.
8. Watch your salad dressing. Most of them are full of trans fats and cholesterol. Olive oil is good, and maybe add vinegar or lemon juice. Also, skip the bacon bits, croutons, and egg yolks.
9. Go overboard on fruits and vegetables. They contain no cholesterol and they have lots of nutrients like antioxidants. Eat more of the following: green peas, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, oranges, mangos, papaya, pineapple, tomato, garlic, onions, spinach, water chestnuts, bananas, apricots, blueberries, and kiwi.
10. Avoid fast food like french fries and anything else from the deep fryer. Those foods will quickly raise your cholesterol so keep away from the burger joints if you can.
These are some simple tips to keep in mind that can go a long way in improving your health. Also remember to get plenty of exercise like walking, jogging, swimming, or playing sports. You will have lower cholesterol in no time and your heart will thank you for it.
KORUNDA MEDICAL INSTITUTE
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