Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cholesterol: What You Need to Know

True or False?: The highest predictor of high blood cholesterol is eating high cholesterol foods.
          False: The main culprit to raising blood cholesterol is saturated fat.

True or False?: Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease.
          True: Regular physical activity lowers your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and can raise your      HDL (good cholesterol) levels.

Let's break down what this all means:

What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty-like substance that the body uses for many chemical processes. Cholesterol is used to produce sex hormones, is converted to bile acids to help digest food, and it builds and repairs cells.

How Does Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease?
When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. This buildup causes the arteries to become narrowed. Thus, blood flow to the heart is slowed down or blocked. If the blood supply is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.

What is LDL (Bad) Cholesterol?
LDL is called the "Bad" cholesterol because it collects in the walls of your blood vessels and causes blockages. Eating a high saturated fat diet increases your levels of LDL cholesterol.

What is HDL (Good) Cholesterol?
HDL acts as a maintenance crew for your blood vessels by removing harmful cholesterol. HDL transports LDL to the liver where it can be reprocessed.

Additional Factors That Affect Cholesterol
-Lack of physical activity
-Cigarette smoking
-High blood pressure
-Family history of heart disease
-Age (men >45years)(women >55years)

Now on to the fun part! Here is what you can do to decrease your cholesterol! 
1. Decrease the amount of saturated fats in your diet. A goal for saturated fat is to aim for less than 7% of your calories.
2. Maintain a healthy weight!
3. Include physical activity every day!
4. Increase the amount of fiber in your diet!
5. Eat fruits and vegetables! They have no cholesterol; but, they are packed with fiber!

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