The collective heart health of our population is worrisome — about half of adults in the United States have at least one of the three biggest risk factors for heart disease: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking.
Considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in our country, it’s very much worth addressing these risks.
In this month’s blog post, Dr. James Kim and our team want to focus on one of these risks, high cholesterol, which affects nearly 94 million adults in the US.
Here’s a look at why cholesterol can be problematic and five steps you can take to get your cholesterol levels into healthier ranges
The good and bad of cholesterol
We talk a lot about cholesterol and having “high” cholesterol, but not all cholesterol is bad, so it’s more about balance.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood that your body uses to build cells, hormones, and vitamins. Interestingly, your liver produces all of the cholesterol your body needs, so any cholesterol you’re taking in from other sources, namely animal products, is in excess.
There are two types of cholesterol. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) cart off excess cholesterol in your blood to your liver, and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) allow cholesterol to access your arteries.
When cholesterol builds up in your arteries, these blood vessels can narrow, leaving you at a much higher risk for heart attack and stroke, which is why we call your LDLs bad and your HDLs good.
So, when we talk about high cholesterol, it might mean that your LDLs are too high or your HDLs are too low. In other words, these lipoprotein levels need to be in balance so cholesterol doesn’t build up in your blood.
Tips for lowering cholesterol
If your cholesterol levels are problematic, there are several paths toward striking a better balance between your LDLs and HDLs, including:
1. Ditching certain fats
There’s no bigger source of LDLs than foods with high amounts of trans fat or saturated fat. These fats come from hydrogenated oils and are often found in fried foods, as well as baked goods. So, pay close attention to labels and understand which types of fats you’re eating.
Intead, focus on vegetable oils or olive oils, which can be beneficial for high cholesterol.
2. Another reason to quit tobacco
If you’re a smoker, put managing cholesterol on the long list of reasons to quit. When you smoke, you lower your levels of HDLs, which can lead to dangerously high LDL levels in your blood.
3. Eat foods that support good cholesterol levels
Certain foods can work toward lowering LDL levels and raising HDL levels, such as:
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish
There are more foods that can improve your cholesterol levels, and we’re happy to review them with you, but these are a good start.
If you exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, you can eliminate fatty LDLs from your blood and raise your HDL levels.
5. Get help
Medications can help get your cholesterol levels in balance. After reviewing your cholesterol levels and your lifestyle, we can decide whether you might benefit from these medications.
For expert oversight of your cholesterol-lowering efforts, please contact us at one of our offices in Chula Vista or National City, California, to schedule an appointment.