If you're one of the millions of adults in the United States who are fighting high cholesterol, you know it's important to watch your diet. High cholesterol can lead to serious health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease. At Nu Wave Medical Center, internal medicine physician Dr. Gurprit Sekhon helps patients in the Panama City Beach, Florida, area who are fighting high cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy fat, naturally produced in your liver. You can also ingest cholesterol from foods you eat. Cholesterol contributes to the production of your hormones, and is involved with your ability to digest your food. You need some cholesterol to stay healthy, but if the amount of cholesterol in your blood gets too high, diet and lifestyle changes will be necessary to keep your heart working smoothly.
What are good and bad cholesterol?
You might hear cholesterol separated into “good” and “bad” types. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” kind, can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries that damages your blood flow. Your risk of coronary artery disease and other heart diseases increases as your arteries become narrowed or even blocked.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” kind, carries cholesterol to your liver, where it's processed and eventually eliminated.
Foods that are high in saturated and trans fats increase your production of cholesterol, sometimes beyond the level that's healthy for your body. If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, dietary changes and weight loss are the best ways to get your levels back on track.
Pick your fats
Saturated fats, present in red meat and full-fat dairy products, liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, and shrimp, will elevate your overall cholesterol levels. Reducing saturated fats will reduce your LDL cholesterol.
Trans fats are most commonly found in store-bought spreads like margarine and store-bought pastries like cookies and cakes. You might also see trans fats listed on a food label as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Cutting trans fats will lower your overall cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids don't affect your LDL cholesterol, but do provide heart-healthy benefits like reducing your blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help to raise your HDL level. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in foods like:
- Fish (salmon, mackerel, or herring)
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts and flaxseeds)
Using unsaturated oils like canola, olive, and safflower in your cooking can also improve your cholesterol levels.
Choose fruits, vegetables, and soluble fiber
Soluble fiber helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Eating soluble fibers will help lower your overall cholesterol. Foods to try include:
- Whole-grain cereals like oatmeal and oat bran
- Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and prunes
- Legumes including kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will also help your body increase production of cholesterol-lowering compounds called plant stanols or sterols.
Moderation is key
In general, you should aim to lower the amount of cholesterol you take in through your diet. Keep your dietary cholesterol for the day under 200 mg.
You should also moderate your use of salt (sodium). Limiting salt to about 1 teaspoon each day will help your heart remain healthy while you get your cholesterol levels down.
Alcohol contains a lot of calories, and can lead to weight gain, potentially increasing your LDL level. For the health of your heart, be moderate with alcohol as well. Limit your intake to about a drink a day at most.
If you have concerns about your cholesterol levels, Dr. Sekhon can help you with developing a diagnosis and treatment plan. She measures your cholesterol levels by ordering a lipid profile. If your numbers are high, she recommends a personalized healthy diet and exercise program. Medications are also available to lower your cholesterol, if lifestyle changes alone don't improve the situation.
With more than 25 years of experience helping patients fight high cholesterol, Nu Wave Medical Center will be with you all the way as you lose weight and get your cholesterol levels back under control. Call our office today to schedule an appointment.