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Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance suspended in your blood. It is made by your liver and is also found in some foods you eat. Your total cholesterol blood test value includes three parts:
- LDL, low density lipoprotein, cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
- HDL, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol)
- triglycerides. This is a fat digested from food that is released into your bloodstream. It either gives your body energy or it is stored as fat. Triglycerides come from dietary fat, high-sugar foods, too much alcohol or too many calories.
When too much LDL builds up on your artery walls, plaque forms and blocks blood flow. This can cause heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and stroke.
HDL helps to get rid of extra cholesterol from your blood vessels. This may prevent or reverse problems by taking the cholesterol from the plaque.
You can lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise your HDL cholesterol by taking cholesterol-lowering medicine, getting regular exercise, making changes to your eating or doing all three. The following tips can help you get started.
- Read the nutrition facts label.
- Eat less saturated fat (found in animal products and some vegetable oils). Saturated fat raises your LDL. If you are eating 2,000 calories a day, limit saturated fat to less than 22 grams a day.
- Look for foods with unsaturated (“good”) fats. Good fats include heart-healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Choose foods with 0 grams of trans fats. Trans fats raise your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and lower your HDL (“good” cholesterol). Also read the ingredients list to see if the food contains hydrogenated oils.
- Lose weight if you need to. Decrease your daily calories and increase exercise to lose weight, lower your cholesterol and lower your LDL.
- Do 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times a week. Examples of activities you could do include brisk walking, jogging, biking, aerobics or yard work.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance suspended in your blood. It is made by your liver and is also found in some foods you eat.
Your total cholesterol blood test value includes three parts:
LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is “bad” cholesterol. When too much LDL builds up on your artery walls, plaque forms and blocks blood flow. This can cause heart disease, peripheral artery disease and stroke.
HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol. HDL helps to get rid of extra cholesterol from your blood and tissue. This may prevent or reverse blood vessel problems by taking the cholesterol from the plaque.
Triglycerides is a fat digested from food that is released into your bloodstream. It either gives your body energy or it is stored as fat. Triglycerides come from dietary fat, high sugar foods, too much alcohol or too many calories.
Eat no more than four to seven ounces of fish, poultry or lean meat a day. Try to include some meatless meals in your weekly eating plan.
- Choose tuna, salmon, lake trout, halibut, sardines, chicken or turkey (no skin), shellfish, lamb, lean cuts of beef and pork (labeled “round,” “chuck,” “loin,” “tenderloin,” “sirloin,” “chop,” “choice,” “select”).
- Limit bacon, luncheon or processed meats (hot dogs, sausage), organ meats (liver, kidney), marbled cuts of meat (T-bone steak, roasts).
Eat three servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products every day.
- Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as milk or yogurt, cheese with less than six grams of fat per ounce.
- Limit 2% or whole milk, cheese with more than six grams of fat per ounce, ice cream, half-and-half, whipped cream.
Fats and oils
Eat no more than three to six teaspoons of fats and oils a day (one serving is equal to five grams of fat or one teaspoon). Saturated fats and trans fats promote plaque formation.
- Choose olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, flaxseed oil, low-fat condiments, soft tub margarines or peanut butter without hydrogenated oils (0 grams trans fat), avocados, nuts, seeds.
- Limit butter, lard, bacon fat, coconut, coconut oil, palm kernel oil.
- Eliminate trans fats or products made with hydrogenated oils.
Eat no more than two eggs yolks a day. Use egg substitute or egg whites if you are eating more than eight egg yolks a week.
Fruits and vegetables
Eat four and a half cups of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Choose fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, no-salt-added canned vegetables, canned fruits in juice (not syrup), dried fruits (in moderation unless your health care provider or dietitian gives you other instructions).
- Limit fried vegetables or vegetables made in butter, cream or other sauces; fruits with sugar, butter, cream or other sauces.
Starches, grains (breads) and legumes
Make half of your grains whole grains. The amount you need each day depends on your age, gender and calorie needs.
- Choose low-fat baked goods (angel food cake), brown rice, whole-grain pasta, corn, baked potatoes, dried peas and beans, whole-grain breads and cereals.
- Limit pies, cakes, pastries, muffins, doughnuts, croissants, quick breads, cookies, crackers, granola, chips, fried foods.