Your cholesterol numbers are important ones to know and ones to work towards improving on a daily basis. The tough part about your cholesterol is that it's influenced not only by diet and lifestyle choices, but also by heredity, age and gender. You can do everything right and still have high cholesterol. It's important to make sure you keep those numbers within reasonable limits to allow for maximum blood flow to get to your heart and lower your risk for heart attacks or other issues related to heart disease.
There are three values associated with cholesterol: total cholesterol, LDL (the bad cholesterol) and HDL (the good cholesterol). All three are equally important for heart health.
LDL is the main cholesterol responsible for clogging arteries, whereas HDL helps to remove cholesterol from your blood and is considered protective for your heart. Ideally, you want your Total Cholesterol to be 200 mg/dL or less, LDL to be less than 100 mg/dL and your HDL to be 60 mg/dL or higher.
Like prevention or management of many other diseases, diet plays a huge role in how your numbers are, and it can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Many of the things you can do to lower your LDL levels will also help raise your HDL levels in addition to lifestyle changes including: increased physical activity, quitting smoking and losing weight. All of these things not only help lower LDL, but they also significantly increase HDL.
As far as the diet is concerned, here are a few things you can focus on:
1. Watch your saturated and trans-fat intake. Saturated fat has the most significant influence on your LDL levels and should be consumed in moderation. High fat foods like cheeses, fatty meats, processed foods and fried foods all contain higher amounts of saturated fats. Trans fats are also important to limit because not only to they raise your LDL and cholesterol levels, but they also lower your HDL levels. The good news is there has been a great push for products both in the grocery store and at restaurants to lower trans fats in the foods they offer, which makes this an easier one to limit these days.
2. Eat high fiber foods. Oatmeal and other soluble fiber-filled foods (beans, apples, pears, brown rice, barley and oatmeal... just to name a few) help reduce LDL levels. They help remove those cholesterol clumps in your bloodstream as they get processed through your body. Insoluble fiber is also good for weight management, which helps with cholesterol, but the soluble fibers are the ones directly related to your cholesterol.
3. Omega 3's. Omega 3's help significantly lower cholesterol. One of the biggest sources of these omegas in our diet is fatty fish. It's recommended you try and consume fish at least twice per week. Some fish to include in those meals are salmon, tuna, herring and trout. Not a fish person? No problem! Try adding ground flax seed to your yogurt or oatmeal to get a good dose of omega 3's. Just a word about flax seed: It needs to be ground up to be absorbed and beneficial, so if you have whole seeds, throw them in your coffee grinder to allow your body to use them! You can also add some soybeans to your salad or as a snack, or have a handful of walnuts.
4. Speaking of nuts... Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and many other (unsalted) nuts are great for heart health and lowering cholesterol. They are very caloric, so stick with about a 1/4-cup serving. You can also try swapping out cheese in your salad and replacing it with nuts.
5. Increase fruits and vegetables. Between the soluble and insoluble fiber, the antioxidants and the low calorie content of these foods, you can't go wrong by increasing your intake of all these delicious foods.
6. Olive, oil, garlic and other "good" fats. Foods like avocado, peanut butter, garlic, olive oil and olives are all sources of good fats in our diets which can help protect your heart.
As you can see, the foods you should be consuming are all part of a well-balanced, ... Continue
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