Cholesterol is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a waxy substance that’s found in the fats in your blood. The body needs and uses cholesterol to build healthy cells, but having high levels of cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease by making it difficult for enough blood to flow through the arteries. This decrease in blood flow to the brain can cause stroke, and the lack of oxygen-rich flow to the heart can cause heart attack. Because of the severe risk involved with high cholesterol, it is important to take preliminary measures to keep from having to deal with the potential repercussions.
The first, and for some the most difficult, way to prevent high cholesterol is to change your lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic website emphatically proclaims just this by stating that lifestyle changes are essential to improve cholesterol levels. Ways to decrease your risk of high cholesterol through lifestyle change are to lose excess weight, eat healthy foods, and increase physical activity. Also, if you are a smoker, quit smoking immediately.
When making healthier food choices on behalf of your cholesterol, choose heart-healthy foods because what you eat directly effects cholesterol level. Heart-healthy foods include healthier fats like avocados and nuts, select whole grains, fish, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Trans fats like those found in baked cookies, crackers, and snack cakes are especially bad for cholesterol, and an identifier of these trans fats is a listing of “partially hydrogenated oils” on the back of the food label. Other items to limit include dietary cholesterol like egg yolks and whole milk products and the consumption of alcohol.
Participating in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity every day is also a preventative measure that can be taken to decrease the likelihood of high cholesterol. If you are currently not exercising, start slow with 15 minutes of activity per day and build the time from there. Some exercise is better than no exercise.
The Mayo Clinic website completes their article on high cholesterol with a simple bulleted list:
The same heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your cholesterol can help prevent you from having high cholesterol in the first place. To help prevent high cholesterol, you can:
- Eat a low-salt diet that includes many fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Limit the amount of animal fats and use good fats in moderation
- Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Exercise on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
For more information, consult the Mayo Clinic website http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/manage/ptc-20181978 . Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment can be found on the site as well.