High Cholesterol again? Sigh…What in the world caused that? You thought you were doing so well…
Well, sometimes it’s just the way you’re built on the inside. Certain situations can predispose you to high cholesterol.
- If you’re a man over the age of 45 or a woman over 55, you’re at greater risk.
- A family history of high cholesterol may predispose you to it as well.
- Certain health conditions, such as Diabetes.
And, of course, it could also be your lifestyle, diet, physical fitness…you know, the “bad but fun” things.
So, how do you know your cholesterol is high?
Unfortunately, high cholesterol doesn’t have any symptoms.(that’s why you don’t know you’re not as OK as you think you are). It makes it easier to think you’re doing ok, even if you’re not.
However, starting in your early 30’s, sooner if you’re over the recommended weight for your height, it’s important to know for the future of your health, especially your heart.
The only way to know whether your cholesterol is high is to have the correct laboratory tests ordered by your physician.
So, if you meet any of the above criteria, speak to your doctor about this and don’t forget to find out how often your he or she would like you to have your cholesterol screened.
Healthy people without a history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc. should have their cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years.
But again, if you have any of the risk factors listed above, your doctor will want you to have it screened more often.
How Much Good Cholesterol Do You Need?
There are two main types of cholesterol: “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein)—-You want LESS of this type, and “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein)- You want this number to be Higher.
- To help you remember this, think of LDL as (Less than, or Less good) which is bad.
- Think of HDL as Healthy, which is good.
The more HDL you have, the better it is for your heart. This is because HDL transports cholesterol away from tissues to the liver and out of your body.
You want low LDL and high HDL.
For otherwise healthy people, HDL levels should be at least 40. But your HDL goal will differ, depending on your unique medical situation.
If you have other health risk factors, your doctor may want yours to be higher. Work with your doctor to decide what your HDL and LDL goals should be.
- That you reduce foods high in saturated fats — which raise total cholesterol.
- That you also also decrease — or eliminate completely — any trans fats because they deliver the lethal double punch of raising your LDL while at the same time, lowering your HDL.
The best way to manage your cholesterol is to focus more on monounsaturated fats such as Avocados and nut fats.
These not only cut LDL but also can help boost good cholesterol.
Examples of foods high in monounsaturated fats include plant-based liquid oils such as:
- olive oil,
- canola oil,
- peanut oil,
- safflower oil and
- sesame oil.
- Other sources include avocados, peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds.
Your doctor will also likely urge you to enjoy a variety of fiber-rich foods, including:
- and whole grains like oats and barley.
The question of the hour is always: “How Much Do I Have to Exercise?” to improve my Cholesterol
I tell my patients “That’s a tricky question!”
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your cholesterol and cut your risk of heart disease. But how much is enough?
- Talk to your doctor about a reasonable exercise goal, given your current medical profile.
The good news is that even if you’re new to exercise (and if you haven’t done any in over a year, you’re “new”) and can only manage a bit at first, that’s good enough to make a difference.
- In fact, just increasing your amount of physical activity each day can improve your cardiovascular health.
Eventually, however, you’ll need to work up to a “moderate-intensity” exercise program.
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This is a common question these days: “How Can I Tell if Stress Is a Factor?”
Chronic stress is always a cause. It can worsen or help bring on conditions such as:
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease
- high blood pressure
- abnormal heart rhythms
- heart attacks
Several very reputable studies have shown long-term chronic stress can raise blood cholesterol levels, possibly because it causes us to blow off our healthy diet and exercise habits.
The bad thing about chronic stress is that we can’t always recognize it ourselves. Feeling stressed becomes our “normal,” and we don’t know any different.
Many people can lower borderline high cholesterol levels with healthy lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, while others require help from medications to move the process along.
Your doctor will discuss the options with you if needed. If he/she does not, ASK FOR INFORMATION.
Ask about both the benefits and the risks for each cholesterol medication your doctor suggests.
Keep in mind that even if your doctor prescribes medication, you’ll still need to eat right and exercise to keep your cholesterol under control.
Medications support, they do not replace healthy habits.