5 Things You Should Know About Cholesterol
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If you have recently been diagnosed with high cholesterol, it can be scary, confusing, and alarming. There are a lot of factors that affect cholesterol and it may be difficult to know where to start. However before you stress, here are 5 helpful things you should know about cholesterol.
- Not all cholesterol is bad
Typically when cholesterol is tested there are three numbers that are involved, HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and total cholesterol. HDL cholesterol has been shown to be heart protective. This means a higher HDL level is indicative of good heart health. However high LDL cholesterol numbers is associated with an increase risk for stroke and heart disease. Total cholesterol is the total amount of both HDL and LDL cholesterol in your blood.
- There is a difference between dietary and blood cholesterol
Though we use the same word to describe cholesterol in food and cholesterol in our blood, there is a difference between dietary and blood cholesterol. Contrary to popular belief, the most recent research has shown that eating foods that contain cholesterol does not directly affect blood cholesterol levels in majority of people. A study published by the British Medical Journal in 2016, found no association between eating a diet high in cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction. Rather than focusing on the amount of dietary cholesterol consumed, it is better to limit saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are found in animal products, and trans fats are found in food products as partially hydrogenated oils, as well as fried and baked foods.
- Sadly, there is no one magic food to reduce cholesterol
Even though it would be phenomenal to have one food that you could eat to lower your cholesterol, it simply is not true. Instead of looking for a magic food, focus on your overall diet. A diet rich in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is the key to lowering cholesterol. As mentioned above, limiting foods that contain saturated and trans fats is also important for a generally healthy diet.
- There are good fats too…
Don’t believe the hype, not all fats are “bad!” According to Harvard Health, choosing foods that contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is more than just a smart and healthy choice. Eating foods that contain polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids are heart protective. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce harmful LDL cholesterol and improve the cholesterol profile when it replaces highly refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. Good sources of polyunsaturated fats that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil. Sources high in monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, sunflower, avocados, and nuts.
- Lifestyle changes can improve cholesterol numbers
Maintaining a healthy diet is just one piece of the puzzle for improving cholesterol numbers. Though diet is essential, physical activity on a regular basis is equally as important. Other lifestyle changes that can greatly improve your cholesterol profile include quitting smoking, losing weight, and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
Lifestyle changes including diet and exercise can make a tremendous difference in your cholesterol profile and overall health. If you need help making these lifestyle changes consider consulting with a doctor of natural medicine, who can help assess your needs. Keeping your body healthy is more than just lowering cholesterol numbers. Whole body wellness should be the focus for optimal health.