Nearly seventy-four million people struggle with high cholesterol levels in America. A heart healthy lifestyle change is needed to save lives, especially with those who hold higher cholesterol levels. In these individuals, the risk of developing coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attack is significantly increased.
The True Picture
Higher cholesterol levels in the bloodstream contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) within the arteries. According to Dr. Lin (National University Hospital), for each point (1 mmol/L) of total cholesterol above the normal limit, there is a thirty-five percent (35%) increase in the risk of death related to a heart condition. There is also a twenty-five percent (25%) increase in the risk of developing a stroke.
Unfortunately, a large number of people think it is fine to get up in the morning and eat cakes or pastries every day. A good percentage of the population blame high cholesterol levels on “bad genetics.” It is time to look at the true picture and take action towards better health.
Ten Simple Ways to Take Action
1. Avoid trans-fats – When looking at heart health, trans-fats are one of the worst offenders. Consuming trans fats doubles the risk of heart disease in women. This category of fat is found in processed foods which includes shortening or partially hydrogenated fats. Prime examples include French fries, baked foods, and confectioneries.
2. Limit saturated fats – Saturated fats are known to cause nearly one-third of all coronary heart disease cases and one-tenth of all stroke cases. This type of fat increases bad cholesterol levels within the blood. Animal products which include meats, lard, and dairy contain saturated fats.
3. Avoid deep fried foods – Deep fried foods should be avoided, especially when eating out. Restaurants tend to fry foods in oil which is used over and over. The reused oils contain harmful compounds which contribute to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s.
4. Choose healthy cooking oils – Choosing unsaturated oils for cooking is best. Olive oil holds heart healthy benefits and is unsaturated. This healthy oil can actually lower bad cholesterol levels in the blood by the increase of good cholesterol levels within the body.
5. Limit cholesterol – Most individuals consume too much cholesterol during their eating occasions. Only a small amount of cholesterol is needed by the body to function properly. Moderation is the key to limiting the overall intake for the day. Limiting (or avoiding) eggs and shellfish is one recommendation.
6. Choose lean meats – Choosing lean meats is strongly advised for individuals who desire optimal health. During cooking, it is important to remove any visible fat and skin to increase health benefits. Include more fish on a regular basis which will add omega-3 fatty acids (a heart-healthy ingredient) to the diet.
7. Limit dairy products – Choose lower fat options for dairy products, such as skim milk. Consider keeping dairy at a bare minimum to help naturally lower cholesterol levels.
8. Increase soluble fibers – Soluble fiber in the diet is a key player in reducing cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Foods higher in soluble fiber include fruits, veggies, oatmeal, oat bran, legumes, barley, beans, and nuts.
9. Reach for healthy snacks – Many Americans will reach for sweets, baked foods, or chips for a quick snack during the day. Replace the habit of grabbing a trans-fat option with reaching for healthy fruits, veggies, or a handful of nuts.
10. Increase Movement – Including regular exercise helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by fifty-percent (50%). Thirty to sixty minutes of exercise on a regular basis will provide huge health benefits. Activities can include brisk walking, swimming, dancing, and other sports.