Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cholesterol: What Americans Should Know About It

Cholesterol... a word that usually causes negative reactions, perhaps because many Americans have too much.  Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 cause of death in the United States.

Skinny people are at risk too!

What Americans should know about their cholesterol... 

What is a healthy level of cholesterol?
Healthy total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL.
Healthy HDL cholesterol is greater than 40 mg/dL for men; and greater than 50 mg/dL for women

Cholesterol comes from 2 sources:
  • Our bodies (75% of our cholesterol)
    • The amount we make is influenced by our family history
    • It CANNOT be influenced by making healthy lifestyle changes.
  • Our food (25% of our cholesterol)
    • What we CAN control through a healthy lifestyle.

Why do our bodies make cholesterol?
Cholesterol is located in almost every cell in the body and helps regulate many crucial body functions.

The 2 types of cholesterol: 
  • LDL- Bad cholesterol
  • HDL- Health cholesterol

Why is HDL cholesterol good?
HDL (good) cholesterol helps keep the LDL (bad) cholesterol from getting lodged into your artery walls.
According to the American Heart Association, "A healthy level of HDL may protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease."

The ONLY way to increase your HDLs is by exercising.
Skinny people who do NOT exercise have less HDLs than an over weight person who exercises.

How do I lower my "bad" cholesterol?
1.) Food- Eating a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • A Registered Dietitian can help make you sort through your options and form a healthy, well balanced meal plan.

2.) Plant Stanols and Sterols:
  • These are naturally occurring substances found in plants that work by blocking dietary cholesterol from being used by our bodies. 
  • They help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by 6-15%, without lowering the HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • Plant stanols/sterols do not effect cholesterol lowering medications.
  • They are safe for the whole family to eat.  
  • Where to find stanols and sterols: Some regular and light margarines contain them because they need fat for our bodies to be able to use them.
    • How much margarine should I eat? 2-4 tablespoons per day of these margarines will give you 2 grams or more of plant stanols (the amount needed to show results).

3.) For some people, eating healthy isn't enough (since the majority of our cholesterol is determined by how much our bodies make). These people may need to talk to their doctors about possible medications.

For more information about cholesterol, visit the American Heart Association's website.

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