By: Karen Yontz Center Staff
Cholesterol can be one of the more confusing risk factors for heart disease. Ideas about what constitutes high cholesterol keep changing and there is continued debate over the best ways to treat those who have unhealthy cholesterol levels. One thing you can be sure about though, if your doctor tells you that you have high LDL cholesterol (or low HDL cholesterol, for that matter), you will need to take action. Here are some simple things you can do to make sure that you are keeping your cholesterol in check.
- Learn your cholesterol levels: The best place to start is by knowing your cholesterol numbers. That means learning 3 things—your total cholesterol, your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. You can have your levels checked by your primary care doctor, or you can schedule a cholesterol screening at The Karen Yontz Center for a small fee. Once you know your numbers, you can figure out a plan for either keeping your cholesterol levels good, or improving them if need be.
- Get out and exercise: Did you know that even 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace each day benefits your heart? It turns out that exercise helps to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol protects you from heart disease and the negative effects of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. If you haven’t exercised in a while, talk with your doctor before starting any sort of regular exercise program.
- Eat foods that help reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol: You probably already know that foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are good for lowering LDL cholesterol. These include cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines and nuts like walnuts. But did you know that fruits like apples, grapes, strawberries and avocados, whole grains like oats and barley, and even dark chocolate and cocoa have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol? Legumes (beans, peas, lentils), garlic, and potatoes are also helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol. Just be sure to watch portion sizes, the way you prepare the food (that means NO frying!), and other added ingredients to make sure you aren’t undoing the good in these foods.
- If you smoke, STOP: You know that smoking is bad for your heart. Some studies have shown that quitting smoking can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Smoking is the number one modifiable risk factor for heart disease. So put down those cigarettes. If you need help, contact us at The Karen Yontz Center.
It’s true that these simple suggestions to improve your cholesterol levels may take some work. But if you make the effort, you will be very happy with the outcome.