4 Steps to Help Lower Your Cholesterol

Your heart keeps you ticking and we all want to know what we can do to keep our hearts healthy. One thing that effects our heart’s health is high cholesterol. Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults has high cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association.

 

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in every cell of your body. Your body needs some cholesterol to keep functioning but your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. The rest of the cholesterol in your body comes from the foods you eat. Foods high in saturated fat and trans fat can trigger the liver to produce more cholesterol than it needs. Having too much cholesterol, or high cholesterol, can be damaging to your body and may lead to a heart attack or stroke.

 

2 Types of Cholesterol

There are two main types of cholesterol. LDL is the “bad” or “loser” cholesterol. A high LDL leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your cells. HDL is the “good” or “healthy” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol from other parts of your body to the liver. Then your liver removes the cholesterol from your body. High HDL levels can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

So what steps can you start taking today to lower your cholesterol and protect your heart?

  1. Eat a heart healthy diet.
    1. Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Aim to get at least 5-7 servings each day. Not quite sure what counts as a serving of vegetables or fruits? Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information.
    2. Eat fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These acids won’t lower your LDL level, but they may help raise your HDL level. They may also protect your heart from blood clots and inflammation and reduce your risk of heart attack. Fish that are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna (canned or fresh), and mackerel. Try to eat these fish two times a week.
    3. Limit salt. Try to limit the amount of sodium (salt) you eat to less than 2,300 mg per day. 
  2. Keep a healthy weight. Almost two out three U.S. adults are overweight or have obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight can help you lower your cholesterol and lower your risk for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  3. Regular physical activity. Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health. Adults need at least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity each week. Physical activity doesn’t just mean running or the new exercise fad. Lots of things counts as physical activity – even things you have to do anyway. Gardening, cleaning the house, and doing yardwork are all ways to get moving. Learn more.
  4. Quit smoking. Smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, especially in women. It also raises your LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol. If you need help to quit smoking, call the Kansas QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or go to KSQuit.org for help.

 

Speak to your doctor to have your cholesterol checked. Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have their cholesterol checked every one to two years. Younger adults should have their cholesterol checked every five years. Know your numbers and start taking steps to a healthy heart today!

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