According to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 million Americans aged 20 or older have total cholesterol levels that are considered too high. And another 35 million have cholesterol levels that put that them at high risk for developing heart disease.
If you’ve been diagnosed with "hypercholesterolemia," or high blood cholesterol, it means that your cholesterol levels are high. It also means that it's time for a change in your diet and lifestyle to lower cholesterol and your risk of heart disease and stroke. Even if your doctor has prescribed a cholesterol drug to bring levels down, you'll still need to change your diet and become more active for cardiovascular health.
Your body needs a small amount of cholesterol to function properly. But there is good and bad cholesterol.
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the bad cholesterol responsible for plaque build-up in the arteries. This condition narrows the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
But HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is good. Researches with the American Heart Association say HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver where it's passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its buildup. But HDL cholesterol does not completely eliminate LDL cholesterol. Only one-third to one-fourth of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL.
HDL can be increased with exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, and certain statin medications.
High cholesterol, especially 'bad' cholesterol is linked to heart disease. Your diet can influence the balance of “good” and “bad” cholesterol to tip in the former's favor.
To lower LDL levels, load your meals with lots of fruits and vegetables - five to nine servings a day. Antioxidants in these foods may provide the benefit, or it may be that when we eat more fruits and veggies, we eat less fat. Either way, you'll also help lower blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, there are no foods that really raise HDL, but some have been shown to have benefits for heart health. These include:
These changes in diet, along with getting more exercise and giving up smoking and excessive drinking can go a long way to keeping your heart and the rest of your body healthy.
Another way to stay ahead of high cholesterol is by getting regular cholesterol screenings. Our cholesterol guide will let you know what yours should be.