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.
How Much Fiber Should I Have
The American Heart Association recommends an average of 28 grams of fiber a day. However, daily fiber needs can vary from person to person.
Fiber can be found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. It can also be taken with fiber supplements that are typically mixed into water. Because most people do not eat the recommended amount of fiber, many food manufacturers also make snacks with added fiber.
Eating too much fiber, or quickly going from a low-fiber diet to one high in fiber can lead to uncomfortable side effects such as:
In rare instances, an intestinal blockage may occur if you eat an excessive amount of fiber in your diet.
The majority of Americans do not consume enough daily fiber. Speak with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian about how much daily fiber you need.
Can Exercise Help To Lower Cholesterol
Yes it can. Getting your blood pumping by doing exercise will reduce your cholesterol. Being active helps your body move the bad cholesterol to your liver where it can be removed out of your system.
You dont have to join a gym or go on long runs if you dont enjoy it, just look for chances to move more every day. Many people find that being active improves their mood so they make healthier food choices. You could try:
- taking the stairs instead of the lift
- a brisk walk instead of a slow walk
- doing two-minute bursts of jumping jacks several times a day
- yoga or pilates if you cant get out
- our exercises to do if youre stuck at home.
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How Much Can I Drink
Health guidelines recommend men and women have a maximum of 14 units of alcohol a week. Drinks should be spread out over the week , ideally with a couple of alcohol-free days in between.
Its not as simple as thinking one drink equals one unit. The number of units in a drink depend on the strength of the alcohol and the quantity consumed.
- 1 pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider = 2 units
- 175ml glass of red or white wine = 2 units
- 25ml pub measure of spirits = 1 unit
To find out the number of units in your favourite drinks, use the unit calculator.
Myth buster: Drinking red wine is good for the heart
Its commonly thought red wine may help to reduce the risk of heart disease thanks to the antioxidants it contains. But antioxidants are also found in many other foods such as fruit and veg.
Better still, the antioxidants in fruit and veg are naturally packaged with beneficial fibre and other vitamins and minerals and dont come with the negative effects of alcohol.
Meanwhile, research funded by the British Heart Foundation in 2018 found the risks of consuming alcohol on diseases of the heart and circulation outweigh any benefits . The truth is, drinking red wine or any other alcohol is not a great strategy for keeping our heart healthy and is more likely to do harm than good.
Lifestyle Tips To Cut Cholesterol
Changing some of your lifestyle habits may also help to reduce your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Suggestions include:
- Cease alcohol consumption or reduce your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a day. Avoid binge drinking. This may help lower your triglyceride levels.
- Dont smoke. Smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to get into artery cells and cause damage.
- Exercise regularly . Exercise increases HDL levels while reducing LDL and triglyceride levels in the body.
- Lose any excess body fat. Being overweight may contribute to raised blood triglyceride and LDL levels.
- Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. High blood sugars are linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis , heart attacks and strokes.
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Eating Walnuts Daily Lowered ‘bad’ Cholesterol And May Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk
- American Heart Association
- Healthy older adults who ate a handful of walnuts a day for two years modestly lowered their level of low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol levels. Consuming walnuts daily also reduced the number of LDL particles, a predictor of cardiovascular disease risk. The study explored the effects of a walnut-enriched diet on overall cholesterol in elderly individuals from diverse geographical locations and spanning two years.
Eating about ½ cup of walnuts every day for two years modestly lowered levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, known as “bad cholesterol,” and reduced the number of total LDL particles and small LDL particles in healthy, older adults, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.
Healthy older adults who ate a handful of walnuts a day for two years modestly lowered their level of low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol levels. Consuming walnuts daily also reduced the number of LDL particles, a predictor of cardiovascular disease risk.
Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids , which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health.
This study was conducted from May 2012 to May 2016 and involved 708 participants between the ages of 63 and 79 who were healthy, independent-living adults residing in Barcelona, Spain, and Loma Linda, California.
Among key findings of all study participants:
What Is Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber provides the greatest heart-health benefits. It helps lower total and LDL cholesterol levels by binding to bile in the gut and removing it with the body’s waste. Bile is made up of cholesterol. Good sources of soluble fiber include:
- Oats and oat bran.
- Apples, bananas, pears and citrus fruits.
- Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, squash.
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Too Much Fiber In Your Low Cholesterol Diet
Soluble fiber, or fiber that is able to absorb water, can be an important part of your cholesterol-friendly diet. Because this type of fiber becomes gel-like as it moves through your digestive tract, it is able to remove the cholesterol, a waxy substance, found in the intestines. While it is possible to consume too much fiber, only 5% of Americans eat the recommended amount.
This article explains if it’s possible to consume too much fiber, as well as the recommended amount for a cholesterol-friendly diet. It also covers how to overcome the side effects of having too much fiber.
The Good The Bad And The Waxy
Cholesterol is a waxy goo made by the liver and circulated through your blood to help with all kinds of processes, like making hormones, vitamin D, and acids for digesting fatty foods.
Since the liver makes enough cholesterol, you dont need to get it from dietary sources like meat, eggs, and dairy.
A blood cholesterol test will reveal numbers for LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Low density lipoprotein is the bad kind the higher this number, the higher your risk for heart disease.
High density lipoprotein is the good kind because it carries excess cholesterol to the liver to be disposed of.
Triglycerides are another type of fat in the blood that are associated with higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cholesterol levels tend to rise between the ages of 20 and 65. Men usually experience higher cholesterol up to the age of 55. For women, menopause often triggers cholesterol to rise.
The Relationship Between Fat And Cholesterol
How are fats related to blood cholesterol? Research shows that the amount and type of dietary fat consumed can affect blood cholesterol levels. Dietary fat, especially saturated and trans fats, may raise blood levels of total and LDL cholesterol. Replacing some saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help lower blood cholesterol. Recall that high total blood cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol levels increase risk of heart disease, while lower levels reduce risk. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol help lower the risk for heart disease.
What foods contain fat and cholesterol? In some foods, fats are obvious, like noticeably greasy, fried or oily foods, or meats with visible marbling. In other foods, such as dairy, eggs, and some meats, fat and cholesterol is harder to see. Fats are found in both plant and animal foods, but cholesterol is only found in foods of animal origin. A food can be high in fat and cholesterol , high in fat but low in cholesterol , low in fat and high in cholesterol , or low in both . The nutrition facts label is a useful tool to determine the amount of fat or cholesterol in a particular food item.
More Tips To Lower Your Cholesterol Level
Apart from the answer to “how much cholesterol should I eat” and some food recommended to lower your cholesterol levels, you can learn more tips to adjust your lifestyle and keep your cholesterol in a safe range.
1. Avoid Trans-Fat
Trans-fat is abundantly present in fast food, processed food, fried food, donuts, pastries and bagels. Trans-fats are responsible for lowering HDL levels and increasing LDL levels, therefore we should avoid them.
2. Lose Excess Weight
Shedding off extra pounds will do great in lowering cholesterol levels. It is believed that losing 10 pounds can reduce LDL cholesterol by 8%. An estimation is that a daily intake of 1000 to 1200 calories for women will be beneficial in reducing weight. While in men, dietary plans with 1200 to 1600 calories in a day will do well.
3. Exercise Daily
Staying active and keeping muscles in working condition will do a lot in raising good cholesterol level and reducing bad cholesterol level. Aerobics, cardiac workout and jogging prove to be beneficial.
4. Increase Fiber Intake
Fibrous food also helps in reducing cholesterol levels as it prevents cholesterol absorption in body. Moreover, it gives feeling of fullness so that you can eat less. Corn, broccoli, raspberries, celery, apples, cabbage, beans are fiber enriched food. But too much fiber can cause bloating, so eat it in moderation.
5. Go Fish
6. Substitute Olive Oil for Butter
7. Eat Nuts
8. Reduce Your Stress
9. Add Spices
10. Quit Smoking
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What About Plant Stanols Or Sterols Products
If you have high cholesterol, using foods with added plant stanols and sterols has been shown to help to lower cholesterol levels. You need to eat 1.5-3g of plant stanols or sterols, in combination with a healthy diet, to see a reduction in cholesterol.
You can get this from fortified foods such as mini drinks, spreads, milk and yoghurts from both branded and supermarket own label products. If you decide to use these products, follow guidelines on the packet to get the right amount. However, they are not a substitute for healthy diet nor a replacement for cholesterol lowering medication. And if you dont have high cholesterol, these products are not recommended. Find out more in our Stanols and Sterols fact sheet.
Genetic Predisposition For Heart Disease In Smokers
Although the toxins introduced into the lungs are the same for every smoker, how they affect the body can vary greatly among these individuals. A 2007 study suggests that genetic factors play a significant role in cardiovascular disease risk among smokers.
Researchers at the University of Rochester found that 60% to 70% of the population has a common genetic defect in the substance that maintains the proportion of HDL to LDL. This substance is called the cholesteryl ester transfer protein . Though its exact workings are not fully understood, scientists believe CETP mediates the transfer of HDL to LDL cholesterol.
The genetic defect causes the CETP to work in overdrive, attacking the HDL and breaking it into particles that can be easily removed from the blood. This lowers HDL levels.
Because smoking is also known to lower HDL levels, the authors of the study note that the cumulative effect of both smoking and the genetic defect greatly increases the risk of developing heart disease. The study found that smokers with the genetic defect are likely to suffer a heart attack 12 years earlier than a non-smoker. Smokers who do not carry the common genetic defect have the same risk of having a heart attack as non-smokers.
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Myth: I Dont Need Statins Or Other Medicines For My Cholesterol I Can Manage My Cholesterol With Diet And Exercise
Fact: Although many people can achieve good cholesterol levels by making healthy food choices and getting enough physical activity, some people may also need medicines called statins to lower their cholesterol levels. Guidelinesexternal icon also suggest that other medicines in addition to statins may be needed to help control cholesterol.2
People who may need statins or other medicines to manage cholesterol levels include the following:
- People with familial hypercholesterolemia or people with very high levels of bad cholesterol. FH is a genetic condition that causes very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age. If left untreated, cholesterol levels will continue to get worse. This greatly raises the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke at a young age.
- People with cardiovascular disease . People with CVD may already have narrowed arteries because of too much plaque. Medicines that lower cholesterol may help reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke.
- People with diabetes.Type 2 diabetes lowers HDL or good cholesterol levels and raises bad cholesterol levels. This combination raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Other groups of people may also need medicines to manage their cholesterol, including people who have a high risk for CVD. Always talk to your health care provider about the best ways to manage your cholesterol.
Theres A Lot Of Conflicting Information About Saturated Fats Should I Eat Them Or Not
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats which are found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your bad cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease.
The more important thing to remember is the overall dietary picture. Saturated fats are just one piece of the puzzle. In general, you cant go wrong eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fewer calories.
When you hear about the latest diet of the day or a new or odd-sounding theory about food, consider the source. The American Heart Association makes dietary recommendations only after carefully considering the latest scientific evidence.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
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Enjoy A Tipple But In Moderation
Many of us who enjoy a glass of wine may think its a good way to look after our heart. But the truth is, eating healthily, stopping smoking and being more active are far more beneficial to heart health than drinking alcohol. In fact, alcohol is more likely to damage, rather than protect, our heart, especially when we drink more than is recommended.
Drinking too much increases the chances of having raised triglycerides and high blood pressure and can cause abnormal heart rhythms . Plus, alcohol is high in calories, an excess of which can lead to unwanted weight gain and being overweight increases the risk of high blood cholesterol. It can also hinder our good intentions to eat more healthily. In short, too much booze in the long term means were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke and it increases our risk of developing other conditions including some cancers and liver disease .
Reduce Saturates Rather Than Cholesterol In Food
Cholesterol is only found in animal foods, usually in relatively small amounts. But a few foods, including eggs , shellfish and liver , contain much larger quantities. In the past, this meant advice was to limit these high-cholesterol foods if you had high blood cholesterol. Eggs were usually pinpointed as foods to avoid by anyone with high cholesterol as they tend to be eaten more often than shellfish or liver.
However, newer research now shows that compared to saturated fats, for most people the cholesterol in food impacts only moderately our blood cholesterol levels. The exception is people who suffer with Familial Hypercholesterolaemia , an inherited condition that results in extremely high blood cholesterol levels, and those with high cholesterol or at a high risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as people with high risk of CHD/CVD, enhanced cholesterol absorption due to certain gene variants in sterol transporters like ABCG5/G8 .
For most people though, saturated fat has a far bigger effect on blood cholesterol than the cholesterol found in food. This means if you need to lower your blood cholesterol, the most important thing you can do is eat fewer foods that contain saturates, such as fatty meats, full-fat milk, butter, lard, cream, pastry, cakes and biscuits. Meanwhile, most people can enjoy eggs as part of a healthy, balanced diet thats low in saturated fat, unless advised otherwise by their GP or a dietitian.
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