Maintaining a healthy cholesterol level is important to good health. Incorporating a few changes into your lifestyle helps you remain healthy.

Know Your Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the main cholesterol in your body, has also been labeled the “bad” cholesterol. When these levels are high your risk for heart disease and stroke is increased. Elevated LDL cholesterol levels are usually treated with medication and lifestyle changes.
LDL cholesterol builds up “plaque” on blood vessel walls and over time causes blood vessels to narrow. This narrowing impairs blood flow to and from the brain, heart and other organs. Heart attacks occur when the vessels prevent blood getting to the heart. When blood flow is blocked from the brain a stroke occurs.

The other cholesterol, High- density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the “good” kind. HDL absorbs LDL cholesterol and caries it to the liver, where LDL is filtered and removed from the body. When you have high levels of HDL the risk for heart disease and stroke is decreased. HDL cleans your blood vessels of LDL and keeps lipoproteins at proper levels. Too little HDL and there is still a risk for heart attack and stroke.

Know Your Numbers

The Mayo Clinic has found cholesterol numbers should total less than 200. Numbers for HDL or good cholesterol are different for men and women. HDL numbers should be above 50 if you are female and 40 if you are a male. A level of 70 for LDL cholesterol is best for optimum health.

When numbers are out of balance make a few changes to reach the recommended levels. There is no quick fix, but it is important for your health to work towards a low LDL number. Your doctor will want to monitor both the HDL and LDL numbers to keep you on the right track.

Have your cholesterol checked annually when you have a history of heart disease. If cholesterol has never been a concern, it is still recommended numbers be checked every other year. Remember, living a heart-healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods and exercising routinely helps.

Getting to a Healthy Level

A regular exercise routine will result in raising HDL numbers over time. Check with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise. Most of all, stick to your goal.

Lowering LDL is more challenging as what is eaten directly affects those numbers. Consider the risk of heart attack or stroke and then choose your menu. Lean meats, such as poultry and fish, are fine to eat. Cold water fish, such as herring and salmon, are also good for you. Choose wild-caught fish if possible. These fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids help increase HDL levels. If you don’t care for fish, up your omega-3 fatty acids by consuming walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds.

Avoid increasing your LDL by not eating saturated fats such as those found in red meat and dairy products.

Trans-fats are also unhealthy for you. These fats are found in processed and fried foods, cookies and crackers. Packages may be labeled “trans-fat free” and still contain up to 0.5 grams of trans-fat. Eat enough so-called “trans-fat free foods, and you are still increasing the trans-fat in your system. This “binge” raises your LDL and lowers your HDL. If ingredients on the label include partially hydrogenated oils, do not eat them. This is trans-fat.

Soluble fiber helps lower LDL levels and are found in oats, oat bran, legumes, and vegetables. Insoluble fiber has heart healthy benefits as well, however, it does not lower bad cholesterol.

Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels

When exercising regularly and choosing healthier foods you will see cholesterol levels be more acceptable. You alone decide to make a commitment to adhere to the regime or to only occasionally enjoy a forbidden food. Be mindful of your health. For some an occasional steak will not impact their food choice decisions. For others one cookie will completely derail their numbers.

Even though maintaining healthy cholesterol levels may mean a lifestyle change, you will feel better and look better when making adjustments.

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