With every one percent reduction of total blood cholesterol, there is about a two percent reduction in the risk of heart attack. Getting your total cholesterol down and your HDL, or good cholesterol, up is good medicine. Here’s what you can do to control your cholesterol.
- Eat less fat. Keep your total daily fat intake below 20 percent of your daily calories.
- Eat the right fats. Eat foods that are low in saturated fats, that contain mostly monounsaturated fats, and that are high in essential fatty acids. This means eating fats from seafood and plant sources. Minimise foods of animal origin, which are high in saturated fats. Eat more fish that contain omega 3 fatty acids (seabass, salmon and albacore tuna), which help lower blood fat levels and reduce the risk of blood clots, which can clog arteries and cause strokes and heart attacks. Choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, and nut oils.
- Cut cholesterol-containing foods. Too much cholesterol in the diet increases, the bad cholesterol. Therefore, eating less animal foods and more plant foods will lower the blood cholesterol. While eating lean beef and peeling the skin off chicken reduces the cholesterol in these foods, there is still cholesterol and saturated fat within even lean meat and poultry. Egg yolks, milk fat, and shellfish (shrimp and lobster) are high in cholesterol. Other oily fish (such as salmon and tuna) are much lower in cholesterol. If you already have a high cholesterol, temporarily switching to a vegetarian diet (with fish and non-fat dairy products, such as yogurt) may help lower your levels quickly.
- Get lean. Trimming excess body fat can increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL). It is not only excess body fat that influences cholesterol levels, it’s where you carry it. Studies show that men who carry excess fat around the middle (a body type we refer to as “apples”) are at a higher risk of coronary artery disease than those who carry excess weight around the hips and buttocks (“pears”). Research has shown that apple-shaped people should pay even more attention to staying lean through a combination of exercise and a lowfat diet.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise (the kind that gets your heart rate up) raises the level of HDL cholesterol and may also reduce the level of LDL. In fact, since there is no such thing as eating foods high in HDL cholesterol, the only two ways you can raise HDL cholesterol is by exercising and reducing your body fat. Exercise is one of the few cholesterol-lowering activities that accomplish all three goals: lowering total cholesterol, raising HDLs, and lowering LDLs. Exercise stimulates the body to manufacture more HDL. The cholesterol level of athletes is much lower than that of sedentary individuals.
- Relax. Stress releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline, which can elevate blood cholesterol levels.
- Don’t smoke.
- Raise low cholesterol kids. Children who grow up with a plant and seafood-based diet rather than one high in animal-based foods are more likely to grow up with healthier hearts.