If you are eating foods high in cholesterol, you may be at risk for heart disease. Here are some tips on how to lower your cholesterol.
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What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance found in animal foods that is required for the body to function properly. The body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so you don’t need to get it from your diet. However, eating foods high in cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup in your arteries, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood.
There are two types of cholesterol:
HDL cholesterol: HDL stands for “high-density lipoprotein.” This type of cholesterol actually helps protect against heart disease by carrying cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and removed from the body.
LDL cholesterol: LDL stands for “low-density lipoprotein.” This type of cholesterol contributes to plaque buildup in your arteries.
You can help keep your cholesterol levels in check by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Avoiding foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and dietary cholesterol can also help.
What foods are high in cholesterol?
You may be surprised to learn that cholesterol is found in food from both animal and vegetable sources. Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly, but too much cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. Here’s a look at some of the most common sources of dietary cholesterol.
Animal sources of cholesterol
Cholesterol is found in animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy products, and lard.
Plant sources of cholesterol
Cholesterol is not found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. However, some processed foods made with plants (such as certain types of margarine) may contain small amounts of cholesterol.
Foods high in saturated fat
Saturated fat is a type of fat that is solid at room temperature. It is found in animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. It is also found in some plant-based oils such as coconut oil and palm oil. Foods high in saturated fat can increase your cholesterol levels.
How does cholesterol affect your health?
Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. But too much cholesterol in your blood can be a major health threat. It can cause a buildup of plaque in your arteries that makes them narrow and hardens them. This condition is called atherosclerosis, and it can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, or strokes.
Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver. But cholesterol also enters your blood from the foods you eat. Foods from animals have more cholesterol than plant-based foods. So, eating foods high in cholesterol can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels.
To help keep your blood cholesterol at a healthy level, choose foods low in saturated and trans fats and limit the amount of animal-based foods you eat. Saturated fats are found in fatty cuts of meat, poultry skin, whole milk, cream, butter, cheeses, and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat milk. Trans fats are found in some shortenings, margarines, snacks, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
What are the risks of eating foods high in cholesterol?
When it comes to cholesterol, there are two types: good and bad. Good cholesterol, also known as HDL, helps keep your arteries clear. Bad cholesterol, or LDL, can build up in your arteries and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
You can find cholesterol in all types of food, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. Some plant foods also contain cholesterol.
Eating foods high in cholesterol can raise your LDL levels and increase your risk for heart disease. You should limit your intake of high-cholesterol foods and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help reduce your risk.
How can you lower your cholesterol levels?
Diet and lifestyle choices play a big role in cholesterol levels. Here are some tips for how to lower cholesterol:
-Choose healthy fats. Replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
-Eat foods high in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can help absorb cholesterol and remove it from your body. Good sources include oats, barley, lentils, apples, oranges, and carrots.
-Avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats. These include fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil, and fried foods.
-Limit sugar intake. Too much sugar can increase triglyceride levels and contribute to weight gain.
-Exercise regularly. Exercise helps boost HDL (good) cholesterol levels and can also help you lose weight if needed.
What lifestyle changes can help reduce cholesterol?
While some people are born with high cholesterol, for most people it’s a result of lifestyle choices. That means it’s something you can change. Here are some tips:
-Eat a healthy diet. Eating foods that are low in saturated and trans fats can help reduce your cholesterol level. Saturated fats are found in animal products, such as butter, cheese, and red meat. Trans fats are found in processed foods, such as crackers, cookies, and cakes.
-Lose weight if you’re overweight. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can lower your LDL cholesterol level.
-Exercise regularly. moderate aerobic activity can improve your HDL cholesterol level. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
-Don’t smoke cigarettes. Smoking decreases your HDL cholesterol level.
What are the treatments for high cholesterol?
Even though cholesterol is essential for our bodies, too much of it can be damaging to our health. High cholesterol levels can build up plaque in our arteries, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions.
The good news is that high cholesterol is often treatable. Making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, can help lower your cholesterol levels. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe medication to help manage your cholesterol.
If you have high cholesterol, it’s important to work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that’s right for you. Together, you can find a plan that will help keep you healthy and reduce your risk of developing serious health problems down the road.
How can you prevent high cholesterol?
High cholesterol has no symptoms, so it’s important to get your cholesterol checked regularly. You can prevent or delay the onset of high cholesterol by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
Cut down on foods high in saturated fats, such as fried food, takeaways, processed meats, biscuits, cakes and pastries. Choose leaner cuts of meat and lower-fat dairy products. Swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, rapeseed oil or spreads made from these oils.
Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods, such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, beans, pulses, fruit and vegetables. These can help reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by binding with it in your gut so it’s removed from your body. Oats contain a specific type of fibre called beta glucans that can also reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Try to eat fish at least twice a week as part of a varied diet as some types contain oils that can help reduce your cholesterol levels. They include fresh tuna (not tinned), salmon, mackerel and sardines.
What are the signs and symptoms of high cholesterol?
If you have high cholesterol, you may not have any symptoms. Many people with high cholesterol don’t know they have it. Having high cholesterol doesn’t usually cause symptoms, so the only way to know your cholesterol levels is to get them checked with a simple blood test.
You may not be able to feel it, but over time, high cholesterol can damage your heart and lead to heart disease, a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol is one of the major modifiable risk factors for developing coronary heart disease. It’s important to get your cholesterol checked and take action to lower it if needed, starting at age 20.
For some people, lifestyle changes are enough to lower their cholesterol. For others, medication may be needed as well.
When should you see a doctor for high cholesterol?
If your cholesterol is higher than 240 mg/dL, it’s time to see a doctor. You may need medication to help lower your cholesterol.