Fight Cholesterol Diet and Exercise
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., close to 700,000 people die from heart disease yearly. More women die of heart disease than cancer. High cholesterol is one of the risk factors closely associated with heart disease and should be monitored regularly. But what exactly is cholesterol? What is the difference between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol? And how can one lower cholesterol through diet?
Cholesterol is a normal fat-like substance found in the blood and in all of the bodys cells. Too much cholesterol can increase a persons risk for heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is known as the “lousy” cholesterol and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is known as the “healthy” cholesterol. LDL, HDL, and your triglyceride count essentially make up your total cholesterol.
Basically, the LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and the HDL cholesterol helps remove the cholesterol from the arteries.
We all produce different amounts of cholesterol and that is where genetics play a factor. The factors we cannot control is our genetics, age, and ethnicity. We must focus on what we can control, which is our food choices, exercise, stress management, proper sleep, and healthy work/life balance.
The main ways to lower cholesterol through diet is consuming a low saturated fat and high fiber diet, avoiding all trans fats (processed fats). Trans fats are used in baked goods, some fast foods, and some margarines. Read ingredient list and look for the words “hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils” and avoid those products because that indicates trans fats. Saturated fats are primarily found in high fat animal based products, coconut and palm oils. When possible, choose low fat or nonfat, cheese, milk, and yogurt and lean meats. Choose more whole grains such as 100% whole wheat or rye bread, brown rice, 100% whole wheat pasta, and beans. A small handful of almonds and walnuts are also helpful in lowering cholesterol. Try a couple of meatless meals a week and replace animal protein with soy protein.
Exercising regularly and maintaining a low stress lifestyle is extremely important as well. Exercise has been shown to help raise the levels of the HDL cholesterol and is also a great stress reliever.
Remember, try to live the healthiest life possible and your heart will thank you.