Take Charge of Your Cholesterol!

Cholesterol. Some is vital; too much can be deadly. In fact, a heart attack might be the first sign that the fatty, waxy stuff has been clogging your arteries. The good news about blood cholesterol is that you can control it – with favorable results. In fact, each 10 percent reduction in high-cholesterol levels lowers your risk of heart disease by about 20 percent. Here are some ways to take charge of your cholesterol:

Shed excess pounds and get moving – If you’re overweight, your body is storing more fat and cholesterol than it should. Sometimes those extra pounds can boost your cholesterol levels out of the healthy range. A modest weight loss of 10% of your current weight has been shown to reduce cholesterol. Regular exercise seems to improve the ratio of good to bad cholesterol and lower triglycerides. How much exercise is enough? Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate activity most days of the week.

Stop smoking – Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol and raises LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is important because it sweeps away LDL cholesterol, the type that sticks to vessel walls.
Read labels and know what you’re looking for – Foods labeled “cholesterol free” may still raise cholesterol levels. Potato chips, for example, have no dietary cholesterol, but they’re high in saturated fat. What’s the bottom line? As a rule, restrict fat intake to 30 percent of your total daily calories.

Get your fill of fiber – Eating fiber-rich foods like dried peas and beans, legumes, apples, oat products, lentils and citrus fruits is a low-calorie way to satisfy hunger pangs. Those foods are also good sources of soluble fiber, which helps eliminate cholesterol from your bloodstream.
Patrol your plate and keep track of your daily food intake– Practice portion control and it may be possible to enjoy all kinds of foods! It may seem like a chore; but if you have high cholesterol, it’s worth figuring out where the cholesterol in your diet is coming from.

Cook healthfully – You could eat nothing but fruits, vegetables and fish and still have high cholesterol. How? Your cooking method. Breading, battering and frying add fat. Instead, steam, poach, grill or bake nutritious foods. Avoid cream sauces and use reduced-fat dressings. Try nonstick cookware and sprays and always remember to trim visible fat before cooking.

Put a lid on stress – Research shows that stress can increase the body’s cholesterol production. If you’re often tense, think hard about what’s causing you to feel that way and find time for relaxing activities. If your stress level is so high that it’s disrupting your life, talk to your physician or enroll in a stress-reduction program.

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