Poor cholesterol – it’s doomed to be misunderstood. The fact is, cholesterol is necessary to make cell membranes and even hormones. Your body produces cholesterol. Your diet also contributes but it’s not so much the cholesterol you eat as the saturated fat in your diet that raises your levels. Even more confusing, some cholesterol is “bad” (LDL attacks arteries and contributes to plaque buildup), while some is “good” (HDL escorts the bad stuff out of the body). Only about half of people who have heart attacks have high cholesterol, but it’s still important to keep your levels healthy. For every 1-point drop in LDL, heart attack risk falls by 2 percent; every 1-point rise in HDL reduces your risk of a fatal heart attack by 3 percent. For most people, a high-fat diet plus a sedentary lifestyle combine to raise levels of “bad” LDL and decrease “good” HDL. Cholesterol levels also rise with age. Your genes play a role, too: A few people inherit a genetic mutation that raises total cholesterol sky-high (over 600 mg/dl).
Symptoms – Usually none, if you have inherited familial hypercholesterolemia, you may develop small, bumpy cholesterol deposits on your elbows, knees, and buttocks. It you have them, have your cholesterol checked right away; diet and exercise can help, but it’s likely you’ll need medications to bring levels down to normal.
Eat Less Saturated Fat
Yrs, is the stuff in burgers, steaks, butter, cheese, and ice cream. If you want to avoid a heart attack, you’ll want to switch to skinless chicken breast, fish, olive or canola oil, and low-fat frozen yogurt. Experts estimate that for every 2 percent decrease in calories from saturated fat – about what you’d get if you had baby carrots instead of an ounce of regular potato chips or drank two cups of 1 percent milk – you would lower your LDL by 1 point. Keeping your daily intake of saturated fat to less than 7 percent of your daily calories – that’s about one tablespoon of butter or one slice of cheddar cheese plus ½ cup of ice cream if you eat 1,800 calories a day – can lower your LDL by 9 to 11 percent.
Get The Word Hydrogenated Off Your Menu
Read the back of the chips or a box of cookies, crackers, or baked goods, and you’re all too likely to see “partially hydrogenated” oil on the list. These oils, also known as trans fats, extend the shelf life of a product, but they can shorten your shelf life by raising LDL and triglycerides, reducing HDL, and increasing your odds of having a heart attack. In one study of 50 men with healthy cholesterol levels, eating trans fats for five weeks raised LDL 5 percent and lowered HDL a heart-damaging 11 percent.
Food served in restaurants and fast-food chains – especially fried food – can also be high in trans fats; many eateries have promised to change the oil in their deep fryers, but not all have followed through. Even if they have, fried food is still generally too high in fat and calories to eat safely expects on rare occasions.
Smoking depresses levels of good cholesterol by 7 to 20 percent and at the same time can raise your bad cholesterol 70 percent, according to one analysis of several studies. It also unleashes toxic chemicals make LDL more dangerous to arteries. Quit, and you’ll see benefit fast: Levels of heart-protecting HDL bounce back within a month or two.
Eat Oatmeal, Barley, And/Or Beans Every Day
These three foods are packed with a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. It acts like a sponge, trapping cholesterol-rich bile acids in your intestines so they can be eliminated before they can raise your cholesterol. Whole grains such as whole wheat bread and brown rice, which are rich in insoluble fiber, just can’t do that trick. In one study of 36 overweight guys, those who ate two large servings of foods rich soluble fiber a day lowered their LDL by 17 percent.
Here are three great ways to get more into your diet.
– Enjoy grated apples over oatmeal at breakfast; in one review of 10 studies, people who started the day with a big bowl of oats had LDL levels 7 point lower than those who didn’t have oats.
– Cook up quick-cooking barley in just 10 minutes and serve it instead of rice. In a study from the USDA’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, 25 people with slightly high cholesterol who ate barely daily for several weeks slashed their LDL by up to 17 percent.
– Enjoy beans as a main dish in chili or soul, as a side dish at lunch or dinner, or sprinkled on salads. In a University of Colorado study of 17 people, those who ate ½ cup of canned pinto beans a day cut their bad cholesterol by 8 percent.
Snack Of Nuts
It seems backward, since nuts are fatty, but they really are good for your cholesterol, thanks in part to the cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats they contain. Choosing almonds instead of doughnut, chips, or pretzels for your afternoon snack every day could cut “bad” cholesterol by nearly 10 percent. A bonus: Vitamin E in the almond’s “meat” the first step in the development of artery-clogging plaque.
Want to raise your HDL at the same time? Choose walnuts. Bad cholesterol fell 10 percent and good cholesterol rose 18 percent when 58 women and men in one study snacked on about 14 walnuts haves a day for six months.
Nuts are high in calories, so be smart about portions. A 0.5 ounce, 90-calorie serving is about 12 almonds, 8 whole cashews, 8 pecans, 26 pistachios, or 7 walnut halves. Double that for a 180-calorie serving. One great portion-control trick: Stash 22 almonds in a metal breath-mint box and munch them instead of a candy bar at work.
Feast On Fruit, Double Your Vegetables
Filling up on produce by aiming for nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day can reduce your LDL by as much as 7 percent. Researchers aren’t sure why, but it could be because of soluble fiber, which blocks the re-absorption of cholesterol found in the bile acids (digestive juices) that make their way into your intestines. This effectively lowers your LDL levels. Apples, pears, and prunes are all good sources of soluble fiber. Or it could be even simpler: people who eat more produce probably eat fewer fatty meats, snacks, and desserts.
Get Moving To Boost Good Cholesterol
Recently, doctors have discovered that having high levels of good cholesterol is every bit as important as having low levels of the bad stuff. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of effective ways to increase your HDL – but exercise is one of them! Aerobic exercise, whether it’s walking, swimming, biking, or even working hard in your garden, can raise HDL by 5 to 10 percent. If you’re also following a healthy diet, adding exercise can nudge LDL down 3 to 16 point, other studies suggest. A recent Japanese study of 1,400 people found that those who got 40 minutes of brisk walking four times a week raised their HDL by 2 points – enough to lower heart disease risk by about 6 percent. For raising HDL, longer workouts are better than several short ones.
Women: Lift One Glass. Men: Have Up To Two
Studies suggest that people who drink alcohol in moderation (one drink per day for women and up to two for men) get double cholesterol benefit. In one study, a glass a day lowered LDL nearly 8 points. Drinking moderately also increases HDL; in one Dutch study, HDL rose b y a respectable 7 percent.
Trim Your Personal Fat Zones
Losing about 6 percent of your body weight (about 11 pounds it you now weight 180) could lower your LDL by 12 percent and raise your HDL by 18 percent, researchers say. The best pounds-off strategy for making your cholesterol numbers healthier? A moderate-fat diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and unsaturated fat from fish, nuts, and olive and canola oils. Skip extremely low-fat diets. While research shows that they can make plaque in arteries shrink, they’re impossibly difficult for most people to follow. And plenty of studies show that a moderate-fat diet not only protects your thicker well but is also much more pleasurable.
Nudge Your LDL Lower With Sterols And Stanols
These natural compounds, found in many cholesterol-lowering fortified foods like margarines and orange juice, block the absorption of some cholesterol in your intestines. In one study, people with normal cholesterol in your intestines. In one study, people with normal cholesterol levels who used margarines fortified with sterols and stanols saw their bad cholesterol decrease 7 to 11 percent after three months. Experts recommend getting up to two grams of sterols and stanols a day, about the amount in 2 /12 tablespoons of fortified orange juice. Eat an extra serving g of red, yellow, or orange fruit or vegetables a day if you use these cholesterol-lowering products; they can reduce absorption of heart-friendly compounds called carotenoids from the foods you eat.
Don’t worry (too much) about cholesterol in food. Studies show that most people, foods like whole eggs and even shrimp won’t raise bad cholesterol. Harvard researchers have found, for example, that eating up to seven eggs a week doesn’t raise LDL levels. And despite the fact that 12 large shrimp deliver 200 milligrams of cholesterol, a Rockefeller University study found that people who ate shrimp did raise their LDL slightly, but their cholesterol ratios improved because HDL rose even higher and triglycerides fell.