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Reducing High Blood Cholesterol

heart risk assessment

Did you know that coronary heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States? A major risk factor for this illness is a high blood cholesterol level. Studies of people age 20 and over show that women have higher levels than men from age 55 and beyond. By lowering your blood cholesterol level, you can reduce your chances of developing this life-threatening problem.

Your body needs cholesterol to make cell membranes, certain hormones, and other tissues. Cholesterol uses special carriers known as lipoproteins to move through your bloodstream; low density lipoprotein (LDL) transports most of it. In abundant amounts in your bloodstream, however, LDL cholesterol contributes to the formation of plaque, which can build up on the walls of your arteries and block the flow of blood to your heart. This condition, called atherosclerosis, can lead to a heart attack.

High density lipoprotein (HDL), on the other hand, is thought to carry cholesterol away from your arteries and thereby prevent plaque buildup. As a result, HDL cholesterol is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol, while LDL cholesterol is referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

Improve your diet

Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs, so avoid consuming too much cholesterol in your diet. Dietary cholesterol comes from the animal foods you eat, such as meat, fish, dairy products, and poultry. Saturated fat also makes your blood cholesterol level rise. Foods from plants, such as grains, fruits, and vegetables, don’t contain cholesterol and are high in starch and fiber. Furthermore, studies suggest that incorporating more whole grain and soy protein into your diet can actually help reduce your total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.

Stay physically active

Exercise can increase your HDL cholesterol and decrease your LDL cholesterol. In addition, it helps you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and relieve stress. You don’t have to join a gym; an activity such as walking, when done on a routine basis, can help.

Avoid obesity

Being overweight is associated with higher blood cholesterol levels. Even losing five or 10 pounds can raise your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol. Modifying your lifestyle by eating better and exercising is the best approach; crash diets can be harmful.

Don’t smoke

Smoking is a major risk factor in heart disease. Furthermore, it lowers your level of HDL cholesterol.

Know your blood cholesterol level

Your doctor can measure your blood cholesterol level for you. Experts recommend that men age 35 and over and women age 45 and over have their total blood cholesterol level checked every five years. Before menopause, women have lower levels than men of the same age. After menopause, the LDL cholesterol in women increases. Knowing what your total blood cholesterol level is can assist you in setting goals for improving or maintaining it. Under certain circumstances, your doctor may prescribe drugs to help lower your cholesterol level.