Important questions concerning cholesterol

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Important questions concerning cholesterol

What facts could you tell a friend or family member about cholesterol?  How confident are you knowing what foods to eat and what foods to avoid helping lower cholesterol?  How often should you get your cholesterol checked?

Answers to the above questions are important to know on being knowledgeable about cholesterol.  Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like compound found in every cell in your body and performs many functions such as making estrogen and testosterone and vitamin D.  There are two ways you get cholesterol – what your body makes and from certain foods.  Interestingly, your body makes the majority of cholesterol in it and the only foods containing cholesterol are foods of animal origin – dairy foods such as milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt, red meat, poultry, fish and eggs. No plant-based foods contain cholesterol.

But how much do you know about your cholesterol numbers and how to reach healthier numbers helping prevent a heart attack or stroke?  Since more than on in three adults in the U.S. has high LDL (“bad” cholesterol), which puts a person at risk for heart disease, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with it. High cholesterol has no symptoms but over time, it causes plaque to build up, which blocks blood flow and can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Check out the answers to questions you should know about cholesterol:

·      What should I know about cholesterol numbers?

Total cholesterol includes LDL, triglycerides, and HDL, the “good” cholesterol. But the focus of treatment is really on driving the LDL number down. If you have heart disease or are at risk of heart disease, it’s ideal to get your LDL number below 100. If you already have heart disease, or have diabetes, than your LDL number should be below 70.

·      Can exercise help lower cholesterol?

Exercise is very good for driving down triglyceride levels down. Brisk walking is a great exercise – it’s recommended to walk about five miles a day, which is 10,000 steps. Other exercises you can do to lower cholesterol is 30 minutes of swimming or jogging or other aerobic activity on a daily basis.

·      Can eating certain foods lower cholesterol?

Foods containing soluble fiber, such as oats and oat-based cereals, beans, nuts, apples, oranges or grapefruit, are excellent sources of this type of fiber. Also eat small amounts of good fats (like monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats in olive oil or avocados) and psyllium husk, which you can get in natural food stores.

·      Which foods should be avoided?

Foods that promote high cholesterol and can raise LDL are those that are high in saturated fat. These foods include red meat, organ meat such as liver, full-fat dairy products, cheese, whole milk and ice cream.

·      Should I take a statin to lower cholesterol?

Depending on how your cholesterol number is, will determine if your doctor will let you try lifestyle interventions (eating a healthier diet, exercise, quit smoking, etc.) first.  However, if you already have established heart disease or other high risk factors, it’s likely they will want to start you on a statin – it’s better to start medication sooner rather than later.

·      How often should you get your cholesterol checked?

It is recommended to begin getting your cholesterol levels checked starting when you’re 20 or older every four to six years. Check with your doctor if you need it tested more often.

·      What role does family history play in cholesterol?

Family history of high cholesterol levels does play a significant role.  But, it’s not everything. Fortunately, it is possible to make an effort at lowering cholesterol with lifestyle changes that can make a huge difference.

·      What else affects cholesterol?

Smoking or having diabetes can result in a bad LDL level. Stress is another component affecting raising triglycerides.  Stress promotes inflammation and inflammation is a known trigger for heart disease.

Another problem with stress is it can lead to a poor night’s sleep.  Sleeping poorly or lack of sleep raises your cortisol level which can raise you LDL and triglyceride levels. To combat poor sleep, be sure to go to bed at the same time each night, sleep in a dark room and read a book of do whatever you find helps you relax in the last half hour or so before bedtime.

Other ways to manage stress include practicing yoga, meditation, or do a favorite hobby that helps reduce overall stress.