How do I lower my cholesterol?

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Answered by: Amy, An Expert in the Beating High Cholesterol Category
You just got your blood work back from your doctor's office and noticed that he mentioned that your cholesterol was high and that he would like to see you lower it. You're left wondering what on Earth cholesterol is, how it effects your health and how to lower your cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that can build up in your blood vessels.It is a substance that is necessary for normal body function but in excess it can cause heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms and DVT's. There are several types of cholesterol but we are going to worry about a few. The first is LDL cholesterol or "bad cholesterol" we usually like to see this number under 100.This is one of the artery clogging cholesterols. HDL cholesterol is the "good cholesterol" we like to see this number greater than 39. This cholesterol is actually heart protective. A high number here is a good thing. Triglycerides are another type of fat made by the body that can in excess be problematic. Fortunately, this is something that is easy to improve with lifestyle changes and if necessary medication.

One easy change is to cut out fast food. Fast food is often fried, greasy or heavy processed. That increases the amount of cholesterol found in foods, by avoiding fast foods you cut out an unnecessary source of cholesterol.

Another change is to cut out all fried foods. Fried foods should be a special occasion foods only. We all love really good French fries but to lower my cholesterol I should eat these sparingly.

Processed foods also contain a large amount of cholesterol. Making foods at home from "scratch" will help lower my cholesterol because I can control the amounts and quality of ingredients in my foods.

Sugary foods are also a culprit in the battle to lower cholesterol and are especially important to reduce the triglycerides. If you regularly consume more calories in sugary foods than you burn then you will probably have elevated triglycerides. By reducing soda and candy intake alone you can make a drastic cut in your triglyceride level.

Red meat, pork, shellfish and fatty fish all contain large amounts of cholesterol and should be avoiding when you are trying to lower your cholesterol. These foods should be "sometimes" foods. I know what you are thinking, "What about my protein?". The food pyramid recommends 3-4 servings of meat per day. An important thing to note is that a serving of meat is only about 4 oz. Generally, less than half of restaurant portion. Protein is also found in dairy products and protein deficiencies are generally only found in developing countries.

I have added "Meatless Monday" to my life(although not always on a Monday!). On meatless Monday I choose dairy, egg or plant based proteins(beans, rice, quinoa all contain protein). So I might have a cheese and crackers lunch and either a vegetable frittata or one of my favorites black bean nachos for dinner. I cook for my family every night and so far no one has missed the meat!

Another critical change to help lower your cholesterol is I have increased my exercise. Even getting up to change the channels on the TV is exercise. Since my significant other has health issues he has started by just taking a walk around the block, or parking a little farther away from work or the store and getting in a few extra steps. This will help increase your HDL the heart protective cholesterol.

If necessary your doctor may suggest a medication or an over the counter supplement to help lower your cholesterol. Usually, providers will want you to try these lifestyle changes first as they can also lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for diabetes as well.

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