Cholesterol Basics

Cholesterol, Healthy Heart, Healthy Living
on August 13, 2011
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Cholesterol is associated with the artery-clogging junk that puts you at risk for heart disease and heart attacks. Find out more about cholesterol — the good, the bad and the ugly — and get on track to heart health.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver. Cholesterol is also in every cell of the body and the bloodstream. It’s important to your body for proper metabolism and the manufacture of hormones, but since it is not soluble, it can clog up the arteries, blood vessels and heart. HDLs, or high-density lipoproteins, are considered good cholesterol and help the body get rid of cholesterol. LDLs, or low-density lipoproteins, have been dubbed bad cholesterol because it contributes to the stickiness of cholesterol and causes clogging.

Medication can control cholesterol. If you’ve had blood work done and your doctor informs you your levels of cholesterol are too high, he or she may prescribe medication to help get things under control. The safety of these medications is well documented, and the cholesterol-lowering effect is excellent.

Lose weight to improve cholesterol levels. If you are taking medication and wish to improve the efficacy or are hoping to avoid the use of medication altogether, there are some changes you can make that will help. Losing as little as five or 10 pounds can reduce cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Find comfort and entertainment outside of food, make low-fat food choices and get moving. When heeded, these simple steps really work to improve weight and cholesterol levels.

Maintain a heart healthy diet. You can undo years of damage by changing your eating habits now. Choose healthy fats instead of saturated or trans fats. Dairy and red meats contain the LDL or bad cholesterol that raise the total cholesterol and are unhealthy for your heart. Select lean meat, low-fat dairy and monounsaturated fats like olive, safflower and peanut oil as healthy options. Always go for whole grains, which are known to assist in removing cholesterol from the bloodstreams. Fruits and veggies have a similar effect on cholesterol levels. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids are highly regarded in helping to lower the LDL cholesterol. Salmon, herring and mackerel are excellent seafood sources of omega-3’s, as are walnuts, flax-seeds and almonds. Be sure to avoid overuse of alcohol and do not smoke — these will work against all the beneficial dietary choices you make.

Exercise does wonders for your body. Not only will you look toned and glowing with health, you will actually be healthier if you exercise. Moderate exercise has been shown to lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. Double check with your doctor, but most will agree that some sort of fitness regime will help you get control of your heart health and cholesterol levels.