Let’s face it: Most of us don’t tend to dwell on our cholesterol levels until we have been given reason. Naturally when we find out we have elevated cholesterol, our minds tend to gravitate toward the bacon double- cheeseburger we may never again be able to enjoy! But the fact is, a person’s cholesterol level plays a prominent role in other areas of our overall health. Gaining and maintaining control of this important part of our physical makeup will help us to stay healthy on many different levels.

Managing Your Cholesterol

High blood cholesterol levels can lead to so many different health problems such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Many proactive steps can be taken inorder to manage cholesterol while simultaneously maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Bad Cholesterol Versus Good Cholesterol

“Bad” cholesterol is also known as LDL or low-density lipoprotein. Low-density lipoprotein actually delivers bad cholesterol to the body. “Good” cholesterol or HDL (high-density lipoprotein) on the other hand, removes bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. An LDL level between 100-129 is optimal, while HDL should be at 60 or higher. Triglycerides, another type of fat contained in the blood, should not exceed 150 mg/dL.

How to Manage Cholesterol Levels

Many lifestyle modifications can be made in order to reach optimal cholesterol levels.

Diet: A healthy, well-balanced diet is essential in order to maintain healthy cholesterol. Daily intake of fats and saturated fats must be reduced regardless of whether or not you are taking prescribed medication to lower your cholesterol. Many foods contain certain proven health benefits that have the power to control cholesterol and improve overall health by also providing the basics in nutrition that we need each day. Increase your intake of such foods as brocolli, fish or fish oil supplements, green leafy vegetables, oranges or orange juice, carrots, garlic, fiber and oats. These foods are proven to help improve heart health, regulate blood pressure, and help achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol.

Making little tweaks here and there to how you grocery shop and put together healthy dinner menus may make the undertaking a little less overwhelming. Below is a list of food groups that contain the best choices of each.

Breads: Rather than white bread, opt for healthy whole grains such as whole wheat, rye or pumpernickel rather than white bread.

Cereal: Avoid cereals such as granola and museli which tend to be high in fat content. Choose hot and cold whole grain cereals that are also high in fiber.

Rice: Brown rice contains many more health benefits than white. Not only will brown rice help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, but it is also a low glycemic food which will help to regulate blood sugar.

Grains: Whole grains are essential to a healthy diet. Choose such grains as bulgur, couscous, quoinoa, barley, hominy and millet.

Fruits: Fruits are an integral part of a well-balanced diet. Avoid canned fruit in heavy syrup and opt for light syrup or fruit packed in its own juices. Better choices include fresh, dried and frozen fruit.

Vegetables: You cannot go wrong by increasing your vegetable intake. However, to receive those health benefits, choose fresh or frozen vegetables and avoid vegetables prepared and packaged in cream and cheese sauces.

Milk: As delicious as it may be, children are the only people who should drink whole milk. Fat free and 1% milk are healthier choices for adults.

Cheese: Limit your intake of cheese to three grams of fat per serving.

Juice: Choose fresh or frozen juices.

Meat: When choosing red meat, opt for lean cuts.

Chicken/Turkey: White or light meat contains the most health benefits. Always remove the skin before eating.

Fish: Most white fish are low in fat and are very good for you. Choose light or white meat tuna packed in water.

Other Ways to Manage Cholesterol

Exercise is important to incorporate into your daily routine. Doctors recommend 30-minute sessions between four and six times a week. Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. Consistent exercise does have the power to raise HDL and reduce LDL and triglycerides.

Certain supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids and red yeast rice have been proven to reduce cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning a new supplement to be sure it does not contraindicate with any other medication you may currently be taking.

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