It is important to understand what cholesterol is and how it affects our bodies and our health. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is created and used by our body. Cholesterol comes from two sources, our bodies and our food. Our bodies do need cholesterol to function properly, but when we have too much cholesterol it is deposited in the lining of the artery, making vessel walls weak. This may lead to narrowing of the artery, rupture, or clot formation and raises the risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is a modifiable risk factor and improving levels can improve a person's future risk for heart disease and stroke. Everyone has non-modifiable risk factors, such as family history and age, for this reason it is important to work on the risk factors that we can control - like cholesterol.
A low-cholesterol diet can help to improve heart health and lower bad cholesterol by 10-20%. A diet rich in healthy fats, like vegetable oils and fish, and avoiding foods high in saturated and trans fats are often the first step on a healthier path. Grundy County Memorial Hospital's Dietitian, Wendy Brewer, shares tips to a low-cholesterol diet during: Limit saturated fats: cheeses butter, stick margarines, 2% or whole milk, and shortening. Replace these items with low-fat cheese, heart healthy tub margarines, 1% or skim milk, and olive oil. Replace butter, sour cream and other fatty ingredients from cooking by using spices.
Stick to 3-6 oz. of lean meat daily, this is about the size of the palm of your hand. The best types of lean meat are chicken and turkey. Choose fish often. When choosing beef and pork, select a lean cut.
Triglyceride levels can be raised by sugars. Cut down on white flour, white rice, pasta, and sugary beverages like alcohol and soda. Replace these items with whole wheat and grain products.
Consuming 0.4 grams of plant sterols twice a day with meals can reduce bad cholesterol. Look for products that contain added plant sterols like: granola bars, orange juice or vegetable oil spreads (Benecol, Promise, Smart Balance, etc.).
Include foods with soluble fiber in your diet. Some examples are oatmeal, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Try using cholesterol-free egg substitute instead of whole eggs.
When choosing soups, choose vegetable or broth based soups rather than cream soups.
Ask for your salad dressing on the side and make sure it is a low-fat or fat-free salad dressing.
Choose foods that are baked, broiled or steamed rather than fried.
Making healthy food choices and using portion control can help to lower your cholesterol and lower your risk for heart disease. Making additional smart choices towards a healthier lifestyle is equally important as diet change. Not smoking is important because smoking damages the wall of the arteries and lets cholesterol in. Regular exercise can raise HDL and lower LDL levels. Weight loss, taking medications, and controlling blood sugars for diabetics are also important in controlling cholesterol levels.
The National Cholesterol Education Program Guidelines recommend you check your lipids every 4-6 months. Make sure that you understand all of the numbers included in your cholesterol breakdown (HDL, LDL, Triglycerides) because a number that is out of the recommended range in any of these areas puts you at risk.
For more information on cholesterol-lowering diets and lifestyles, checking cholesterol levels, or other GCMH services please call 319-824-5421 or visit www.GrundyCountyHospital.org.