Work With Your Doctor On A Lower Cholesterol Plan
Lowering your cholesterol doesnt mean going it alone. Your primary care doctor is a helpful partner along your journey.
Your doctor can work with you to create an action plan just for you one that combines diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes to help you lower and manage your cholesterol.
For example, losing weight and quitting smoking can be big helpers for lowering cholesterol. Quitting smoking can raise your good HDL cholesterol levels, and losing weight can lower your bad LDL cholesterol levels significantly.
But these two tasks arent easy. Fortunately, your primary care doctor can be a great resource to help you get started and find practical ways to stick with it. Plus, help with quitting smoking and losing weight may already be covered if you have health insurance.
Whether you want to quit smoking, lose weight or just learn more about how your personal health would benefit from lower cholesterol levels, regular check-ins with your doctor are key. They can also perform cholesterol tests the only way to actually measure cholesterol to check your progress and help you make adjustments based on the results.
Cholesterol Plaques And Atherosclerosis
Cholesterol plaques form by a process called atherosclerosis. Itâs also called “hardening of the arteries.” LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” is the raw material of cholesterol plaques. It can damage the arteries that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Then, once the damage has started, LDL keeps on building up in the artery walls. Progressive and painless, atherosclerosis grows cholesterol plaques silently and slowly.
The cholesterol plaques of atherosclerosis are the usual cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease. These conditions together are major contributors to cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in America, causing about 650,000 deaths each year.
Does One Meal Matter
A single fatty meal won’t put you at risk for heart disease. Nor is it likely to change your cholesterol levels or test results. But over time, a diet high in saturated fats and carbohydrates can greatly increase your risk.
Other risk factors include obesity, smoking and a lack of exercise, according to the Mayo Clinic. Genetics, older age and conditions like diabetes can also be risk factors.
The best way to manage your risk for high cholesterol and triglycerides â and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke â is to follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly and to quit smoking.
Discuss your cholesterol with your doctor. In some cases, you may also be prescribed medication to help manage your risk.
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Understanding Your Cholesterol Results
The results of a cholesterol test can be as confusing as they are important. Learn the difference between LDL and HDL, and how to lower your cholesterol. What do my cholesterol results mean?
Thats because lowering heart attack risk is not just a matter of lowering cholesterol. There are many other factors that damage artery walls and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke, including:
- High glucose levels
- High blood pressure
What Should My Cholesterol Levels Be
Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.
As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:
- 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
As a general guide, LDL levels should be:
- 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk
An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L. A lower level of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.
Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated. This is your total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. Generally, this ratio should be below four, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is only one risk factor. The level at which specific treatment is required will depend on whether other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are also present.
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What If I Have High Cholesterol
If a blood test shows you have high cholesterol, talk to your doctor. He or she can give you advice on what you can do to lower your cholesterol like eating less fried food and choosing low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt, and exercising more.
Here are 5 things you can do:
People with high cholesterol might need to take medicine to if these lifestyle changes don’t lower their cholesterol.
How Quickly Can You Improve Your Cholesterol Levels
Your cholesterol levels are directly tied to your heart health, so its important to make sure theyre in a healthy range. If theyre not, youll need to work on raising your good cholesterol levels and lowering your bad ones . Medications can also improve your levels, but its best to make healthy changes that will improve your overall health and wellness.
Some of the best ways to lower your LDL levels are by:
- Eating heart-healthy foods and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Reducing your intake of saturated fats and trans fats
- Exercising most days of the week
- Quitting smoking if you smoke
- Losing weight
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
There are many factors that contribute to having high cholesterol levels, and your diet is a major one. However, genetics play a role too. If your levels are still high with a better diet and more exercise, your doctor may recommend medication to keep your levels in check.
How Long Does it Take to Improve Cholesterol Levels?
One of the great things about making healthy lifestyle changes is that you can see improvements fairly quickly. Most people see their levels improve within three to six months. Research shows that it takes longer for women, so dont be hard on yourself if your levels havent gone down as much as you want. Each body is different.
How Often Should I Check My Cholesterol?
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What Treatments Are Available For High Cholesterol
Treatment may include:
Addressing risk factors. Some risk factors that can be changed include lack of exercise and poor eating habits.
Cholesterol-lowering medicines. Medicines are used to lower fats in the blood, particularly LDL cholesterol. Statins are a group of medicines that can do this. The two most effective types are atorvastatin and rosuvastatin. Other medicines that lower cholesterol levels are ezetimibe and PCSK9 inhibitors.
Why Cholesterol Balance Is Important
Lipoproteins carry fats around the bodyevery cell needs fat for energy. High-density lipoprotein has been labelled the good cholesterol it regulates low-density lipoprotein the bad cholesterol. High levels of LDL have been associated with illness and disease.
If there is too much fat in the blood, it accumulates on artery walls, forming plaque that restricts blood flow. High levels of LDL can contribute to this condition . However, LDL also bring cholesterol to cells, where it plays a role in maintaining cellular membranes. On the other hand, HDL removes excess cholesterol from cells, carrying it to the liver for processing and elimination .
Health risks develop when either lipoprotein level is too high, too low, or out of balance.
Optimal levels of total blood cholesterol include anything less than 200mg/dL, with an LDL count lower than 100mg/dL and an HDL count above 60mg/dL .
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Cut Back On Animal Fats
Forgo fatty, processed meats such as bologna, salami, pepperoni and hot dogs, as well as fatty red meats like ribs and prime cuts of beef, pork, veal or lamb. Also, skip skin-on chicken or turkey. Avoid full-fat dairy products such as whole milk, cheese, cream, sour cream, cream cheese and butter. These foods contain saturated fat as well as cholesterol, which are both associated with higher blood cholesterol and plaque buildup.
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How To Reverse Arterial Plaque
Diet As mentioned, eliminating unhealthy foods is the first step towards controlling your cholesterol levels.
- Add more vegetables and fruits to your every plate. Cooked tomatoes have been found to work better at regulating LDL cholesterol than prescription drugs due to their high concentrations of lycopene, the carotenoid pigment that makes tomatoes red .
- Increase your intake of high-fiber foods: Soluble fiber can help eliminate cholesterol through the digestive tract. Coconut, oats, barley, and flax seeds are examples of high-fiber foods.
- Cinnamon has been found to effectively decrease LDL levels in the blood . Its also a potent anti-inflammatory.
- Replace animal fats, canola and corn oils with nutritious oils like olive, coconut, and sesame.
Exercise Begin or expand your regular exercise regimen to improve your cardiovascular health. Cardio exercise increases HDL levels and reduces LDL and resistance training can enhance this effect . Even if youre not interested in losing weight, regular exercise will positively impact your cholesterol levels .
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What Are The Kinds Of Cholesterol
Cholesterol in the blood doesn’t move through the body on its own. It combines with proteins to travel through the bloodstream. Cholesterol and protein traveling together are called lipoproteins.
The two main types of cholesterol are:
LDL cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol.” This type of cholesterol can combine with proteins and other substances in the blood to make plaque. Cholesterol plaques can buildup and cause blood vessels to become stiffer, narrower, or blocked.
HDL cholesterol, or “good cholesterol,” doesn’t clog arteries. HDL cholesterol removes cholesterol from the blood vessels and carries it back to the liver, where it is broken down and removed from the body.
Here’s an easy way to remember which is which: LDL starts with “L” for “lousy.” HDL starts with “H” for “healthy.”
High levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol increase a person’s risk of having heart disease.
What Kind Of Test Measures Cholesterol
Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years. Your healthcare provider will order a blood test that will indicate how much cholesterol is carried in your bloodstream. This test will give your cholesterol levels. Your provider might also order what is called a lipid panel or a lipid profile. The panel gives you the following numbers:
- Total cholesterol.
- Non-HDL cholesterol.
- Ratio between cholesterol and HDL.
There are advanced tests that break down the size and shapes of LDL cholesterol levels, and also give the LDL particle number, but those are not normally ordered. Some test makers say that the more advanced tests are better at indicating who is at risk for heart disease, but most providers still feel that the usual tests are adequate.
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You Can Begin Lowering Cholesterol Naturally Today
Sound like a lot to take on? Dont be intimidated. Bringing down your high cholesterol doesnt have to mean changing your life completely. Rather, start with changing your mindset. Instead of moving away from things, youre moving toward new habits that will help you create a healthier and more enjoyable future.
Now is always the right time to start taking care of your heart health. If you need a little support, lean on friends and family. And dont forget: Your doctor is always there for you with advice, motivation and encouragement so you can reach your goals and live healthier.
Does Lowering Your Cholesterol Protect You From Ever Having A Heart Attack
Not necessarily. Since their arrival in the 1990s in Americans medicine cabinets nationwide, statin drugs have indeed proven very effective for reducing high LDL levels, and they do slow the progression of cholesterol-filled plaques. But sadly, the #1 cause of death in Americans taking statins to lower their elevated LDL levels is still heart attacks, states Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LDN, one of the many faculty who teach wellness education and nutrition workshops at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
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Natural Remedies And Lowering Cholesterol
Its very important to talk to your health professional before using any:
- natural remedies
- or complementary therapies.
Sometimes they can do more harm than good. They may interact with any medication that youre taking, which can be dangerous. They can also make your medication less effective. Your doctor needs to know everything that you are taking to ensure that the combination is safe.
If youve been prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication, make sure you take it as directed by your doctor. This is one of the most effective ways to keep your cholesterol levels down.
Start A Healthy Plan And Make A Delicious Recipe
One of the best ways to reduce or prevent high cholesterol is to cut back on the foods that cause it. Those include trans fats, often listed as partially hydrogenated oil on cookie and cracker packages, and saturated fats, found mostly in meat, cheese and butter. To replace those foods, eat more high-fiber plant foods and heart-healthy fats the foods known to lower cholesterol. We list seven of these superfoods below. If overhauling your entire diet sounds too hard, try making just one change per week to make healthy changes that stick.
Week 1: Opt for oats for breakfastOats just might be the perfect way to start your day. They energize you, keep you regular and have more soluble fiber the kind that kicks out bad LDL cholesterol than any other grain. You dont even have to cook them see below for the easiest recipe ever. Other good grain choices are oat bran, barley and whole grains in general.
Week 2: Add an apple a dayApples are high in pectin, another type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes and oranges also pack loads of pectin and other nutrients that give them their vibrant colors, so load up.
Week 4: Have a handful of nutsSnacking on a small handful of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts or pistachios every day can lower bad cholesterol by about 5 percent, studies show. The unsaturated fats in nuts are good for your heart too, unlike the saturated or trans fats in salami, cheese and many crackers.
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What Complications Are Possible If You Dont Treat High Cholesterol Levels In Your Blood
The main reason to treat high cholesterol is to prevent or treat coronary heart disease , also called coronary artery disease or CAD. CHD happens when heart is not able to get enough oxygen-rich blood to function well and kills more people in the U.S. than any other cause of death. CHD usually refers to the large arteries, but there is also a condition called coronary microvascular disease that affects the small vessels and causes damage.
The Truth About Cholesterol
Cholesterol is produced naturally in the body by the liver. Every day your body produces anywhere between 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg.
Cholesterol becomes unmanageable when diet and lifestyle factors influence the quantity and type of cholesterol produced. High LDL levels are caused by eating saturated and trans fats found in animal products and processed foods smoking diabetes obesity and lack of exercise. Processed foods are especially high in omega-6 fatsyour body needs some of this kind of fat but we can easily get too much from processed and fast food.
Cutting out processed food and animal fat from your diet goes a long way toward reducing your LDL cholesterol.
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How It Starts And How It Progresses
Atherosclerosis is a slow, lifelong progression of changes in the blood vessels that may start in childhood and get worse faster as you age.
The cause of atherosclerosis isnt completely known.
Many scientists believe plaque begins when an arterys inner lining becomes damaged. Four possible causes of such damage are:
What Is The Pritikin Diet
The Pritikin diet significantly reduces saturated fatty acids trans fatty acids , and dietary cholesterol. It also increases dietary fiber in the form of natural, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. This is the healthiest way to lower cholesterol, points out cardiologist Ronald Scheib, MD, physician and educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, where the Pritikin Program has been taught since 1975.
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Myth: I Would Be Able To Feel It If I Had High Cholesterol
Fact: High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. You may not know you have unhealthy cholesterol levels until it is too latewhen you have a heart attack or stroke. Thats why its so important to get your cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years.1,2 Learn more about getting your cholesterol checked.
Occasionally, some people develop yellowish growths on their skin called xanthomas, which are cholesterol-rich deposits. People with xanthomas may have high cholesterol levels.
Myth: I Cant Do Anything To Change My Cholesterol Levels
Fact: You can do many things to improve your cholesterol levels and keep them in a healthy range!
- Get tested at least every 5 years .1,2 Learn more about cholesterol screenings.
- Make healthy food choices. Limit foods high in saturated fats. Choose foods naturally high in fiber and unsaturated fats. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
- Be active every day. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Learn more about physical activity basics and tips.
- Dont smoke or use tobacco products. Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Learn more about tobacco use and ways to quit at CDCs smoking and tobacco use website.
- Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol if any medicines are given to you to manage your cholesterol, take them as they are prescribed. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
- Know your family history. If your parents or other immediate family members have high cholesterol, you probably should be tested more often. You could have a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia .
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