Let’s Talk About some of the common cholesterol mistakes we’re all guilty of making.
If you read the previous article “Cholesterol And The 9 Things I Wish You Knew About It” you know that when working to lower your cholesterol levels it’s not just about the amount in your diet that matters.
Yes, avoiding saturated fats and trans fats will have the biggest impact on your high cholesterol. And choosing healthy unsaturated fats, like olive or avocado oils, can help lower cholesterol.
You can lower LDL cholesterol levels with a healthy diet of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The fiber in these foods can lower the amount of saturated fat in your diet, and increase the amount of fiber you get each day, which helps bring down your cholesterol numbers.
In addition, foods high in potassium such as legumes, fruits, and vegetables are needed to maintain the health of your heart.
Here are some of the better choices:
- Potato, 1 medium has 926 mg potassium
- Sweet potato, 1 medium has 540 mg potassium
- Spinach, ½ cup cooked has 290 mg potassium
- Zucchini, ½ cup cooked has 280 mg potassium
- Tomato, ½ cup fresh has 210 mg potassium
- Soybeans, ½ cup cooked has 440 mg potassium
- Lentils, ½ cup cooked has 370 mg potassium
- Kidney beans, ½ cup cooked has 360 mg potassium
- Split peas, ½ cup cooked has 360 mg potassium
- Almonds, 1/3 of a cup has 310 mg potassium
- Apricots, a ¼ cup has 380 mg potassium
- Oranges, 1 medium has 237 mg potassium
- Cantaloupe, a ½ cup has 214 mg potassium
Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and — for some — taking medication to control cholesterol are all good for your heart. But don’t make these 10 mistakes, or you’ll be wondering why your cholesterol numbers are not stabilizing.
Mistake #1: Ignoring Dietary Sugar and Alcohol
When you get a diagnosis of high-cholesterol, it seems natural to focus on limiting the bad fats — saturated and trans fats — in your diet. But you may be overlooking sugary foods and alcohol, which also contribute to high cholesterol.
➡ In your body, excess calories from sugar and alcohol are turned into cholesterol and triglycerides that can contribute to unhealthy levels in your blood.
Most people don’t realize that this is why their numbers aren’t getting any better, even though they’re reducing fat and exercising.
Get back on track:
- Cut down on all sources of sugar, including sweetened drinks, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta.Instead, opt for whole grains rich in cholesterol-lowering fiber.
Mistake #2: Focusing only on LDL Cholesterol Levels
It’s common to focus on the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
number alone. This is the so-called “bad” component of blood cholesterol. Optimally, this number should below 100 (mg/dL).
However, pay attention to your whole lipid profile, which includes total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, to get the real picture of your heart health.
Mistake #3. Interrupting Your Medication Schedule
Drugs to treat high cholesterol, including statins, have a proven impact on cholesterol levels and may prevent heart attacks in people with Coronary Heart Disease.
Although a large percentage of adults in the U.S. take some type of statin medication, not everyone takes them as recommended.
About half of the people prescribed statins stop taking them within the first year, and the numbers go down from there, often because of drug side effects. But not taking your medications as scheduled means not getting the heart health benefits.
➡ Always take your medication as prescribed, and talk with your doctor about any concerns you’re facing, whether it’s a matter of timing, cost, or side effects.
Mistake 4: You Eat Whatever You Want
Taking statins doesn’t mean you can ignore advice about a cholesterol-lowering diet. Many people wrongly believe their medication will make up for any cholesterol overload, regardless of what they eat.
The truth, however, is that even while you’re on medication, you need to watch your calorie intake in addition to the fats and carbohydrates that could be contributing to unhealthy cholesterol levels.
➡ Indulge instead in cholesterol-lowering foods, like beans, fiber-rich apples, and whole grains.
Mistake 5: You Cut Out All Dietary Fat
Watch the calorie count, which can add up fast even with healthy fats, but do include small amounts in your diet.
Mistake 6: You Don’t Find Out What Your Cholesterol Numbers Are
High cholesterol has no symptoms, so if you don’t get tested, you don’t know you have it.
➡ The American Heart Association (AHA) advises having your cholesterol checked every four to six years starting at age 20 — more frequently if you’re at risk.
Mistake 7: You Ban the Wrong Foods
➡ Make thoughtful choices about what you eat and make sure you get enough protein in your diet.
➡ Eggs are rich in protein and nutrients, so you can have one egg if you want it — just don’t eat it with a fatty slab of steak and a glass of whole milk!
➡ A healthy substitution, such as non-fat or low-fat instead of full-fat dairy, can allow you to keep eating your favorite foods while still aiming to reduce cholesterol levels.
**Precautions: If you are taking medications called Statins such as Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), and Mevacor (lovastatin) be aware that grapefruit juice, as well as some other juices, including sour Seville orange juice (often used in marmalade), can inhibit the metabolism of statin drugs, increasing their potency and causing potential side effects.
Mistake 8: You Stop Exercising
Diet alone is usually not enough — it should be combined with exercise.
Mistake 9: You Yo-Yo Diet
The diets that seem to work best for improving heart health and reducing cholesterol are not necessarily new. So, how do you know which one to choose?
Stick with this diet, watch portions and count calories, and you can achieve weight loss, counter high cholesterol, and get off the roller coaster of sampling the latest trendy diet.
Mistake 10: You Take Statins With Grapefruit Juice (!!!)
If your breakfast includes grapefruit juice, it can interfere with your cholesterol control medication.
➡ Grapefruit and grapefruit juice, as well as some other juices, including sour Seville orange juice (often used in marmalade), can inhibit the metabolism of many of statin drugs increasing their potency and causing potential side effects.
➡ Ask your doctor if your cholesterol-lowering medication is likely to be affected by any of the above.
➡ Avoid complications by separating your medication and grapefruit juice for many hours. You can plan to drink grapefruit juice in the morning but plan on taking your statin in the **evening.
**This schedule is often recommended because your liver, where the statin is active, makes more cholesterol at night.
Cholesterol-reducing treatments of diet, exercise, and medication really do work.
➡ If your cholesterol numbers still aren’t coming down enough to reach your personal goal, talk to your doctors about what might be keeping you from the level of success you need.
Let’s Talk About Cholesterol a minute…
When you’re trying to lower your cholesterol levels, it’s not just about the amount in your diet that matters.
➡ Avoiding saturated fats and trans fats will have the biggest impact on your high cholesterol.
➡ You can lower LDL cholesterol levels with a healthy diet of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
➡ The fiber in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains can lower the amount of saturated fat in your diet while providing the heart-healthy potassium you need.
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