So your doctor told you that you have high cholesterol levels? Don’t worry! We are here for your help. But first it is important to understand why it is so bad for you.
LDL or “bad” cholesterol is a fatty substance. Too much accumulation of this substance in the blood can cause arteries to clog, which ultimately results in a stroke or a heart attack.
Cholesterol is produced by the body naturally. However, there are some other factors involved that can cause an increased production of bad cholesterol. It can be genetically inherited from parents and even grandparents. Also consuming foods rich in tans fats and saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels in the body.
LDL is considered very high if you get a reading of 190 mg/dL, even levels ranging from 160 to 189 are considered high, and the borderline levels are from 130 to 159. Cholesterol levels within the range of 100 to 129 are considered optimal. People with a family history of heart disease should maintain their LDL levels up to 70 mg/dL.
Just as too much LDL production is bad for the body in the same way low levels of HDL also known as “good” cholesterol is also not good for your body. Your aim should be to decrease the LDL levels and increase the HDL levels. It is also said that it is easier to push LDL levels down than to raise HDL levels up. HDL levels equal to 60 mg/dL or above are considered to be heart protecting.
By making some lifestyle and dietary modifications you can reduce bad cholesterol levels and at the same time you can increase your good cholesterol levels in the body. Here are some measures you can take.
A well-balanced diet containing lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish is essential for maintaining low cholesterol levels. Avoid meat and dairy products. You can also follow the DASH diet plan also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. Dean Ornish, the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California claims that diet,
stress reduction and exercise can lower LDL by 40% and also helps to remove plaque from the arteries.
Here is a list of some foods that are particularly effective in lowering LDL levels. They are salmon, avocados, nuts, garlic, olive oil, spinach, green tea, dark chocolate, beans and oats.
By losing your weight up to 10% or more you can get rid of high levels of LDL. You can achieve this goal by making some dietary changes and taking exercise regularly. Keep in mind, the trick is not only to lose the weight but also to maintain it.
Avoid Saturated fats
Saturated fats are one of the major diet-linked causes of high levels of LDL. These fats are usually obtained from pork, poultry, beef, lamb, milk, cream and butter. You can also find them in coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter. Limit the consumption of these foods to decrease the levels of bad cholesterol. The American Heart Association suggests that not more than 7% of calories should be taken from sources containing saturated fats. This is what a nutritionist has to say, “A reduction in saturated fats by a moderate amount will reduce LDL.”
Limit Trans Fats
Your diet shouldn’t consist of calories from trans fats more than 1% in a day. You can find trans fats in processed foods, animal products, hydrogenated margarine, cooking oils and shortening. Trans fats lower HDL and increase LDL levels. According to American Heart Association, 75% of the trans fats in American diet comes from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Avoid consuming trans fats as much as possible. There are many restaurants that have switched to trans fat free menu, in California and New York. Always check the food labels before buying packaged food products. Barry Franklin, director of cardiac rehabilitation at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, says, “Look at the ingredients, and if ingredients say hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, there are trans fats in there.”
Smoking may stop you from reaching your healthful goals of low LDL. It is also known for decreasing HDL levels. So to reach your desired cholesterol goals quit smoking.
Taking regular exercise can lower the levels of LDL and increase HDL levels. Taking aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, every 5 days a week can increase HDL levels by 5 to 10%.
Supplements containing soluble fiber and plant sterols can prove to be effective for lowering the LDL levels. You may find these supplements at health food stores. Plant sterols are also found in fortified foods such as rice milk, orange juice and margarine and can reduce LDL levels by 15%. You can find soluble fibers in some natural foods such as nuts, flax seeds, oats and pshyllium husk or in dietary supplements like Metamucil.
These food supplements along with healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce bad cholesterol levels by 20 to 40%.