Cholesterol: Do You Know Your Numbers?
Video by Jonathan Parrish
Did you know people of all ages can have high cholesterol?
High cholesterol can cause heart disease. So, it’s important to know your cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance that our body uses to make cells, vitamins, and other hormones. There are two types of cholesterol LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). Triglycerides are the most common type of cholesterol and are considered the “ugly cholesterol or the third cholesterol.” Triglycerides are a type of fat your body stores from excess food intake.
We need a healthy amount of cholesterol, but problems can occur with too much bad cholesterol. Cholesterol comes from two sources: blood cholesterol, which our livers make, and dietary cholesterol, which comes from animal products.
Why does cholesterol matter?
High cholesterol increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, raises your risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease, or PAD. Lifestyle change is a key component that can help prevent or manage high cholesterol. Here are a few tips that can help you manage your risk:
1. Focus on moving more. Be physically active in your own way. Do what works best for you. An excellent place to start is with at least 10 minutes of activity. This is a good place to start if you are not already active. Consider adding 10 minutes to an already established physical activity routine. If you count your steps, shoot for 7,000 to 10,000 steps or more each day.
2. Include more heart-smart foods in your diet, like vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, healthy fats, fatty fish, and whole grains. Beans and legumes, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a diet rich in fiber may reduce cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends fish like salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, mackerel, and trout two times per week. Aim to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eat less food with added sugar, salt, and fat by checking food labels and preparing more foods at home. This allows you to control what is added to your food.
3. Lose weight if you need to. Losing 3% to 5% of your body weight, or 5-10 pounds, is a great start for most people.
4. Don’t smoke, or at least consider smoking less. Smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease. For help to quit smoking, visit the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline website or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
The American Heart Association recommends you check, change, and control when it comes to cholesterol:
- Check your cholesterol levels. It’s key to know your numbers and assess your risk.
- Change your diet and lifestyle to help improve your levels.
- Control your cholesterol with help from your doctor if needed.
For more information about what your cholesterol numbers mean, visit the American Heart Association website.
Remember, high cholesterol is a serious condition and a major risk factor for heart disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Healthy food choices and physical activity can positively impact your heart’s health. Make an effort to decrease your risk with these lifestyle changes.
For more helpful tips and healthy recipes like these, visit extension.msstate.edu and join our MSU Nutrition and Wellness Facebook group.
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