Managing Your Cholesterol


It's important to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level. Elevated cholesterol can increase your chances of having heart disease. Ideally, your total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL and your LDL ("bad") cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL if you are at risk for heart disease. Your HDL ("good") cholesterol should be higher than 40 mg/dL for a man and higher than 50 mg/dL for a woman. 

You have higher chances of having high cholesterol if you: 

• Eat a high fat diet
• Are overweight, 
• Have a family history of high cholesterol. 

The good news is that if your cholesterol is high, the first way to reduce it is by making lifestyle changes. Nutrition, physical activity and weight loss (if you are overweight) are your first steps; if lifestyle changes don't lower your cholesterol enough, your doctor may prescribe a medication to help you manage your cholesterol level. Dr. Neil Stone, a physician and national expert on cholesterol at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL recommends that if you are trying to lower your cholesterol with lifestyle changes, remember the "6 F's".

1. Fatty Fish: Eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty-acids. Aim for two servings of grilled or baked fish per week. Choose mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, tuna, salmon and halibut.

2. Fat: Limit: your fat portions and choose the healthier types of fat, such as olive or canola oil. If you have a taste for butter, eat small amounts and alternate with olive oil or other fats free of trans-fats (e.g., tub margarine with no trans-fats).

3.  Fruits and Vegetables: Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day to increase your fiber and other important nutrients. Eating fruits and vegetables may help you eat less of other, higher fat foods. 

4.  Fiber: Choose to eat foods like oatmeal, oat bran, and brussel sprouts that are high in soluble fiber; this type of fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your blood stream.

5.  Fast Foods: Limit fast foods. And if you do eat them, try to eat more vegetables. For example, add more vegetables and less cheese to pizza. Or substitute a side salad for French fries.