While cardiovascular disease is a broad term that encompasses many different
kinds of heart or blood vessel problems, it is often used to refer to
damage to your heart or blood vessels by atherosclerosis, a buildup of
fatty plaques in your arteries. This type of plaque buildup can thicken
and stiffen artery walls, and ultimately will inhibit blood flow to your
vital organs and tissues. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of
heart disease, and high cholesterol is a significant contributor to it.
What is Cholesterol?
Created by the liver, cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance in your bloodstream
and in many foods – mainly animal products – from meats to
eggs to dairy. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally. There
are both "good" and "bad" types of cholesterol; not
enough of one, or too much of the other, can cause excess cholesterol
to build up in your arteries and, over time, your arteries may narrow.
This puts you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
Most often, however, high cholesterol levels are not usually accompanied
by any symptoms. Because of this, too many people do not realize that
their cholesterol levels are elevated. This is one of the basic reasons
to get regular checkups, because your doctor can order a simple blood
test to check your cholesterol levels.
Here are five simple things that you can do to reduce your cholesterol levels:
Reduce or Remove Saturated Fats and Trans Fats From Your Diet. Quite often, too much LDL (‘bad cholesterol’) is the result
of eating way too much fatty red meat like beef or pork, or consuming
other animal-based products like butter, lard, and whole-milk dairy products.
Also, many processed foods and all fast food are laden with unhealthy
trans fats, which are made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable
oils.” By eliminating these types of foods from your diet, you will
immediately begin to improve your LDL blood levels.
Add Some Avocado. Avocados are an awesome fuel for heart health. The healthy fat in avocados
will make you feel full and satisfied, and the oleic acid in them will
also help lower your cholesterol levels. In a recent study, people who
ate an avocado-rich diet lowered their total cholesterol levels, while
showing a decrease in their LDL. They also had an 11 percent increase
in their levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” type).
Focus On Eating More Omega-3s. Several large clinical studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids, present
in fish like salmon, and plentiful in walnuts and flaxseed, reduce LDL.
Your body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids – you have to eat them.
The typical American doesn’t eat many foods that are rich in omega-3s;
but, whenever possible, you should try to get your omega-3s from the foods
you eat rather than by taking supplements. By eating more omega-3s, you
will also have a better balance of fat in your diet between fats that
tend to reduce inflammation, like omega-3s, and fats that tend to promote
inflammation, like omega-6s.
Up Your Intake of Soluble Fiber. Oatmeal, apples, prunes and beans are all very high in soluble fiber, which
helps your body avoid absorbing cholesterol. Research has shown that people
who increase their intake of soluble fiber by 5 to 10 grams each day may
see a significant drop in their LDL levels. A side benefit of eating more
fiber is that you will feel more satisfied, which cuts down on cravings.
Move More. Move Often. As your body fat percentage goes down, your cholesterol level will also
go down, and so will your other risk factors for heart disease. Lack of
physical activity may increase LDL, or bad cholesterol, and decrease HDL,
or good cholesterol. With this in mind, you should work to get at least
five hours of exercise per week. By doing so, you will increase your metabolism,
which means that your body will burn more calories every day.
Lastly, don’t put off regular checkups, including routine tests of
your cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends getting
a cholesterol test every four to six years if you are 20 or older and
haven’t been diagnosed with heart disease. If you’re at higher
risk of cardiovascular disease, your cholesterol may need to be checked