If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, there is an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. The three main lifestyle changes you can employ, without the use of medication are:
1. diet – eating healthy foods
2. losing weight
Start reducing your cholesterol now to avoid heart and blood vessel disease that is caused by a buildup of cholesterol, plaque and other fatty deposits along artery walls. When the buildup is large, the arteries become clogged and the blood flow is reduced. Arteries feed oxygen rich blood to the heart, but if they are blocked and blood flow is reduced, a heart attack is likely to occur. It is also likely that a blood clot could form and block an artery leading to the brain therefore causing a stroke.
Limit the use of whole milk, cream and ice cream. A good substitute – low fat milk products. Be careful of fat-free products as sometimes added sugar is used in lieu of fat. Minimize the use of butter, egg yolks and cheese. Instead use Omega-3 rich olive oil, just egg whites and maybe a sprinkle of low fat cheese for flavor. Highly processed meats such as hot-dogs, sausage, and salami are high in sodium, nitrates and fat Consider turkey sausages as a lower fat alternative. When you have a craving for a high fat food, try a small handful of nuts that will provide the healthy fats along with some protein. Meatless meals once or more per week is another great way to minimize fat without sacrificing flavor. Black beans, chickpeas or healthy grains like quinoa can be filling and satisfying without the fat.
If you cannot manage your cholesterol with diet, exercise and losing weight, your physician may want you to start a protocol of cholesterol lowering medications.
You have heard of Statins – these are drugs that can lower your cholesterol by blocking a substance your body uses to make cholesterol. The drug also may absorb cholesterol that has built up on your artery walls.
Using statins is a life-long commitment: your cholesterol will most likely go back up if you stop taking the statins. The only way you may be able to safely stop taking statins is if you can modify your cholesterol through diet, weight control and exercise.
As with all medications, there are side effects to consider. Minor side effects are muscle and joint aches, nausea, diarrhea or constipation. Major side effects could include liver damage, muscle pain and increased blood sugar. Most people on statins will regularly test the liver via a liver function test (also called a hepatic panel) and they will also monitor longer term average sugar via a hemoglobin A1c test. Discuss all medications, lifestyle habits and tests with your physician to determine the best protocol for you.
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Medical Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. The writer is not a physician or other health provider.