Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found in your blood and is needed to help build cell membranes, hormones and vitamin D.
There are two types of cholesterol:
- Low Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL) – which is commonly known as the “bad cholesterol” since high levels of LDL in the blood can cause plaque build up in the arteries which may lead to cardiovascular concerns.
- High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL) – or “good cholesterol” helps to carry the LDL away from the artery walls into the bloodstream and back to the liver for excretion.
Your liver makes 80% of the cholesterol in your body and the remainder comes from the food you eat which is called dietary cholesterol. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart attack, angina and stroke since it can lead to the build up of plaque (atherosclerosis) and result in a narrowing of your arteries.
The following risk factors may increase your chances of having high cholesterol:
- Smoking – can make blood vessels more receptive to plaque build up as well as lower HDL levels
- High Blood Pressure – which can damage arteries and increase the accumulation of fatty deposits
- Age and Gender men over 55 years of age and women after menopause
- Diabetes – which can damage the lining of the arteries, lower HDL and increase LDL levels
- Sedentary Lifestyle – exercise increases HDL and lowers LDL
- Obesity – a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, and men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches and greater than 35 inches foe women
- Ethnicity – people of First Nations, African or South Asian descent
- Family History of Heart Disease – a higher risk if a close family member experienced a heart attack or stroke before age 55 for a male member and before 65 years of age for a female member
Lifestyle changes are something within your control that you can do that will help lower your cholesterol as well as your risk of a heart attack, angina and stroke. To achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, consider:
- Dietary Changer – try to eat nutritious balanced meals, vegetables and fruit (which are rich in dietary fiber and help to lower cholesterol), grain products (whole grain products promote heart health), milk (choose lower fat milk products and reduce your intake of egg yolks and whole milk), meat (choose lean meats, poultry, fish and products that are “trans fat-free”
- Reduce Salt Intake – this will help lower blood pressure
- Quit Smoking – this can improve your HDL and your blood pressure can drop within 20 minutes after quitting
- Lower-Fat cooking Methods – cook by baking, broiling or steaming and avoid frying foods
- Limit Alcohol Intake – try to consume no more than one drink a day for women and one to two a day for men
- Lose Extra Weight – since excess weigh contributes to high cholesterol
- Exercise Regulary – which helps improve cholesterol levels
The more risk factors you have, the more important it is for you to maintain your cholesterol levels within their target range.
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