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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Heart Health: Watch Your Cholesterol

Since February is National Heart Month, I will be posting heart-related posts occasionally throughout the month. Today’s topic is cholesterol since that is one of the most important things that we need to watch in our diets in order to prevent heart disease.

There are two types of cholesterol: LDL, which is the bad kind of cholesterol, and HDL, which is the good kind. (To help you remember the difference, think of the first letters of each: L=lousy and H=healthy.) Cholesterol comes from two different sources: your body and the food that you eat. Your liver and other cells in your body make up about 75 percent of the cholesterol and foods make up the other 25 percent. (American Heart Association).

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines: “In all adults aged 20 years or older, a fasting lipoprotein profile (total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride) should be obtained once every 5 years.

Here are the classifications of HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol:

LDL Cholesterol
<100>190 Very high

Total Cholesterol
<200>240 High

HDL Cholesterol
<40>60 High

(The last value in each category should be "greater than or equal to"--I could not get that symbol formatted--sorry about that.)

The above figures are from Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III)

Here are some tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for lowering your cholesterol:

- Cut back on foods with lots of fat such as fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk, fatty cheeses, butter, margarine, oils, lard, and creams.
- Cut back on food with lots of cholesterol, such as egg yolks and whole eggs.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Cut back on fatty snacks and desserts, such as candy, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, pastries and pies.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes most days.
- If you are overweight, try to lose weight. Try to lose weight by cutting back on the amount that you eat. Even a small amount of weight loss can help lower your bad cholesterol, and you will also help your health in other ways.
- Ask your doctor if you need to take medicine to help lower your cholesterol. Triglycerides are another form of fat in your blood. They can also raise your risk for heart disease. Levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) may need treatment.
Cholesterol (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Some other nutrition tips for lowering cholesterol:

- Choose leaner cuts of beef and pork
- Eat fish at least twice a week
- Use low-fat cheeses and other dairy products
- Eat more fiber and whole grains (whole grain pasta is a lot tastier than regular)

For more tips on lowering cholesterol through nutrition, visit the American Heart Association’s web page Cooking for Lower Cholesterol

Other great web sites:

Cholesterol: Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Heart-Healthy Home Cooking: African American Style (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) – PDF

Tips for Eating Out (American Heart Association)

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