As a family physician, patients often ask me, “What are those different types of cholesterol and what do they mean?” For my first blog post, I thought I’d share some information about cholesterol and how to lower the levels.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as “bad” cholesterol. The more LDL you have in your blood, the higher your risk of heart disease. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered “good” cholesterol. This type lowers your risk of heart disease. Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. People with diabetes and those who are at risk of developing diabetes tend to have high triglycerides.
When you make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol levels, your goal should be to lower LDL and triglycerides while raising your HDL. So, how can you do that? There are many things you can do to improve your cholesterol, but some work better than others. These are some of the best changes you can make:
- Eat less saturated fats. There are two kinds of saturated fat: one occurs naturally in animal products and some plant foods (i.e. coconut and palm kernel oil) while the other is a man-made saturated fat called trans fat. Trans fats are used in margarine and many snack foods. You should limit the amount of natural saturated fats you eat, but completely avoid trans fats.
- Eat more unsaturated fats. Most fats in vegetables, grains, and tree nuts are unsaturated. For example, try using olive oil or canola oil when cooking instead of butter.
- Eat more nuts. Nuts have lots of protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants. And, many studies have shown that nuts have powerful cholesterol-lowering effects. Have a small handful (1 – 2 oz) of almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, or pecans once a day in place of other snacks high in saturated and trans fats.
- Eat more high-fiber foods. Eating a diet high in fiber yields many health benefits. It can help you to maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk for developing diabetes and heart disease, and maintain bowel health. Soluble fiber – found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran – can help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering LDL. Studies also have shown that fiber can help to reduce blood pressure and inflammation. Again, good sources include vegetables and whole grains (i.e. oat bran, whole oats), beans, peas, and flaxseed.
- Eat more soy protein. Meat is high in saturated fat and can raise blood cholesterol levels. Get your protein from plant sources, such as soy, instead of meat. Tofu and soy protein shakes are two easy ways to add soy to your diet.
- Eat more fish. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and trout are full of good fats, or, omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help lower triglycerides. Opt for wild caught fish vs. farm raised and try to eat one – two 6-oz servings each week.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Men should have up to two drinks per day, and women should have one. More than this can be bad for you. A drink is 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor, 5 oz of wine, or 12 oz of beer or wine cooler.
- Exercise. Exercise needs to be a part of your daily routine in order to lower the cholesterol. Aerobic exercise is one of the few things proven to raise HDL. You should exercise for at least 120 minutes each week to get the most benefit.
-Posted by Dr. Smitha Beeravolu