Cholesterol is everywhere in the news. Consumers can be overwhelmed with ads for the latest cholesterol-lowering drugs or fad diets that promise to reduce it to healthy levels. But have you ever stopped to wonder why cholesterol is so important?
How can you change your diet to keep your cholesterol levels perfect?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in your body and your food. Your liver is primarily responsible for producing all the cholesterol you need. Excess cholesterol forms plaque, which blocks your arteries. The American Heart Association has useful videos that show the way cholesterol can affect your body.
CHOLESTEROL IS NOT ALWAYS THE “BAD GUY”
While the majority of advertising and information always portray cholesterol as bad, that’s not always the case. First, it’s important to realize that there is good and bad cholesterol. It’s vital to understand the difference, although it can be a challenge. These must be in balance to ensure good health. Bad cholesterol contributes to plaque, but good cholesterol acts like a broom, sweeping this plaque away so it can be broken down by the liver. Even the names for good and bad cholesterol can be confusing: HDL and LDL. Bad cholesterol is called LDL cholesterol and HDL is good cholesterol. Here’s an easy way to jog your memory. Remember that your numbers for good cholesterol should be higher (like HDL, “higher” begins with H) and bad cholesterol (LDL) should be lower (once again, remember the “L” in “lower” and “LDL.”)
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offer these helpful food substitutions to keep your cholesterol at healthy levels:
Instead of: Pasta with cheese or white sauce, such as alfredo.
Replace with: Pasta with vegetables or marinara sauce.
Instead of: Cream-based soups
Replace with: Broth-based soups
Instead of: Regular cheeses
Replace with: Reduced-fat or light cheeses
Instead of: Granola, sweet rolls or scones
Replace with: Bran flakes, rice cereals or reduced fat scones.
Instead of: Croissants
Replace with: Hard rolls
Read more about foods to avoid to help lower your cholesterol!
YOU DON’T KNOW IF YOU DON’T GO
Of course, you can’t effectively treat your cholesterol if you don’t even know what it is! Remember that every year you should have a physical and blood test—more often if directed by your doctor. Sometimes, medication will be needed to get your cholesterol down to an acceptable level. Physicians who specialize in internal medicine are in a unique position to help you not only lower your cholesterol, but implement healthy lifestyle changes.