The latest data from the American Heart Association (AHA) shows an alarming trend in cholesterol levels among Americans. In a recent study, they found that 1 in 5 adults has a cholesterol level above 200*, which is considered high. High levels of cholesterol can significantly increase your risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. In fact, your body needs some cholesterol to work properly, but in today’s world, it is very rare to have too little cholesterol. It is much more common to have too much. Having too much in your blood can cause it to stick to your arteries. This is commonly called plaque and plaque can narrow or even block your arteries completely.
Though genetics do play a part in your risk of high cholesterol, it’s just one factor. If you are overweight or eat a diet that includes fatty foods, these can also contribute to your risk. Exercise and a diet rich in vegetables and fruit can reduce your risk significantly, though. Here are 5 simple tips that can help you get a head start on lowering your cholesterol:
- Use cooking substitutes. Substitute non-fat yogurt or apple sauce for the oil in pancakes, waffles and other baked goods. These add fiber, lower cholesterol, and won’t change the taste of most recipes.
- Decrease saturated fat. To decrease the amount of fat in your cooking, use a rack so that meat does not stand in its juices and use a cooking spray instead of oil to cook in a frying pan. Also, remove the skin and any excess fat from meat or fowl before cooking.
- Eat more fiber. Fiber acts like a sponge in the digestive tract, absorbing cholesterol. Eating more fiber is also a good way to reduce calories and improve overall digestion.
- Eat more fish. In addition to being low in saturated fat, fish contains cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is very high in omega-3s, but even canned tuna has some.
- Eat more nuts. Recent research demonstrates that regular consumption of nuts can bring modest reductions in cholesterol. Walnuts and almonds seem to be particularly beneficial.
Knowledge and action set the stage for great health! Use the tips above and take action to reduce your cholesterol today!
* Cholesterol is normally measured as milligrams per deciliter of blood, or mg/dL. A reading of 200 means that your blood contains 200 mg/dL of total cholesterol