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How To Reduce High Cholesterol

Updated on March 16, 2011

What is High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance carried in blood. Your body produces cholesterol to build cell walls and to make hormones. Cholesterol has two sources. It is made in the liver and comes from animal products.

Understanding Cholesterol

Excess cholesterol in the blood attaches to substances called lipoproteins. High-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol) carries fats safely out of your body; but low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) allows fatty plaque to build up in arteries, which may slow blood flow and could eventually lead to heart disease. A high total cholesterol reading may indicate there's too much of the bad type in your blood, either because your body naturally produces large amounts of it or because you've been eating too much fat.

Too much cholesterol can be deposited in artery walls, where it clogs arteries, blocks blood flow, and eventually causes a heart attack.

Several factors increase the risk of heart disease. The more risk factors you have, the more important it is for you to reduce or eliminate the risk factors you can control. You are more likely to develop heart disease if you have two or more of of the following risk factors.

Major Risk Factors

  • Diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Low "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels (less than 40 mg/dl)
  • Family history of early heart disease (heart disease in a female family member before before the age of 65 or male family member before the age of 55)
  • Age (men over 45 years old and women over 55 years old)

Others Risk Factors

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise

How to Lower Your Blood Cholesterol Level

The good new is that you can control some risk factors. Eating less saturated and trans (hydrogenated) fat is an easy and important first step toward lowering cholesterol. Regular exercise will help you control other risk factors. If you smoke, breaking your habit is the most important step toward decreasing your risk for heart disease.

Tips for Lowering Blood Cholesterol

  • Eat more plant foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and fewer animal products.
  • Choose skinless poultry, fish and lean cuts of meat. Eat smaller amounts.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) dairy products. Limit cheese.
  • Use trans-fat-free tub margarines or liquid vegetable oils in place of butter or margarine. Try to use less, especially in cooking and baking.
  • Read labels. Avoid products with coconut or palm kernel oil, lard, animal shortening, or hydrogenated vegetable shortening
  • Eat fewer fried foods. Bake, broil, boil, barbecue, steam, or microwave instead.
  • Eat fewer egg yolks (no more than four per week), and avoid organ meats, such as liver or kidney.

 

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