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What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a wax like substance that the body produces. The liver makes most of the cholesterol in response to saturated and Trans fats in the diet. Cholesterol contributes a lot to one's chances of getting heart disease, which remains the country's number one killer. The higher your blood cholesterol level the greater your risk.
Too much cholesterol in the blood builds up on the walls of the arteries. Over time, this build up causes hardening of the arteries. Arteries become narrow and blood flow to the heart is slowed down or blocked. If enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may experience chest pain. If blood supply is cut off by blockage, the result is a heart attack.
A variety of factors can affect cholesterol levels. Some you cannot do anything about, such as heredity, age and gender. The following are factors you can do something about:
Diet: Reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat. Eat a variety of foods, and increase the amount of vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your diet. Eat less meat and meat products.
Physical Activity: Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. It also helps you loose weight. You should try to be physically active for 60 minutes every day.
Weight: Losing weight can help lower LDL and triglycerides as well as increase HDL (good) levels. People with a large waist measurement (more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women) are at high risk of high triglycerides and /or low HDL levels.
Source: U.S Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health
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Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise three or four times a week may be all you need to raise the level of beneficial HDL in your bloodstream. Working out also helps control weight, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. Suggestions: brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, dancing, jumping rope, skating, aerobics.
Change the Fat Content of Your Meals
Following a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet can usually reduce your blood cholesterol by about 10 to 15 percent, thus lowering your risk of heart disease by 20 to 30 percent. Individual results will vary, depending on genetic makeup and former eating habits.
Reduce Saturated Fat, which raises the level of harmful LDL cholesterol in your blood (butter, whole milk, cheese, ice cream, red meat, palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils).
- Cut out meat products high in fat (hamburger, bacon, sausage)
- Read labels carefully, and beware of hydrogenated vegetable oils, cocoa butter, coconut and palm oils, beef fat, or lard
- Remove the skin from poultry, trim the fat around meat, and use lean beef, pork, or veal
- Prepare at least one meatless meal a week
- Snack on pretzels, air-popped popcorn, and fruit instead of candy, nuts, and chips
- Drink skim or low-fat milk, and be aware that cream substitutes are made with tropical oils
- Eat low-fat cheese, such as part-skim mozzarella
Reduce Cholesterol (eggs, meats, butter, whole milk)
- Cook with egg whites instead of whole eggs
- Avoid commercially prepared cookies, cakes, and pies
- Limit portion sizes of lean meat, fish and poultry to no more than six ounces a day, or about the size of two decks of cards
- Eliminate organ meats (liver, brain, kidney) from your diet
- Eat more water-soluble fiber, such as oat bran, legumes, and fruit which may help lower cholesterol levels when made part of a low-fat, low cholesterol diet
Eat Unsaturated Fats. Polyunsaturates lower your total blood cholesterol level-both LDL and HDL (corn oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower oil).
- Monounsaturates lower LDL levels but leave the beneficial HDL intact (olive oil, canola oil).
- Cook and bake with vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, corn, soybean, and olive
- Make your own salad dressing
- Use soft margarine