Nutrition Articles

The Keys to Conquering Cholesterol

Do's and Don'ts for a Healthy Heart

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Heart disease is a scary thing. In the face of dire risk factor statistics and horror stories about cholesterol, you can easily get rattled. You might feel overwhelmed by the whole cholesterol question, and feel like you face uninformed life and death decisions every time you sit down at the table.

But reducing your risk of heart disease is not an impossible task. All it takes is a few simple adjustments.

Your cholesterol level is determined by several factors, including your genetic makeup, your diet, and certain lifestyle choices. You can’t do anything about genes passed down from Grandpa Charlie, but you can change your future with a few new, heart-friendly lifestyle choices.

The list below contains several strategies to help you develop cholesterol-smart, heart-healthy habits. These nutritional do’s and don’ts won’t have you feeling deprived, or require you to train for a marathon. They will, however, make your heart very happy. And a happy heart has nothing to be afraid of.

DO watch your cholesterol intake. Dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol you eat) may raise blood cholesterol levels. Limit dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams a day.

DO limit the fat in your diet. A diet rich in fat encourages weight gain and may lead to elevated blood cholesterol levels.

DON’T eliminate all fat from your diet. You need some fat in your diet for good health. Fat adds pleasure to your meal and makes you feel satisfied after the meal. Fat also gives flavor, texture, and moisture to food.

DO choose olive oil and canola oil for salad dressing, sautéing vegetables, cooking and baking. They are rich in monounsaturated fat, the heart healthy fat.

DON’T forego seeds and nuts, like almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts. These are high in the healthy monounsaturated fats. A small handful 3-5 times a week can help prevent heart disease and increase your HDL (high density lipoprotein, the good cholesterol) levels.

DO find more soluble fiber. Soluble fiber may help lower blood cholesterol levels. It is found in oats, rice, bran, barley, dried peas and beans, and certain fruits like prunes and apples.

DON’T overlook complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Choose more whole grain breads and cereals, pasta, brown rice, and dried beans and peas. Enjoy fruits and vegetables more often.

DON’T overindulge in salt. High blood pressure is associated with a diet high in sodium. Check labels carefully and watch the amount of salt you use in cooking and at the table.

DO cut back on trans fatty acids. Trans fatty acids are formed during the process of hydrogenation, which makes a fat more saturated and extends its shelf life. Avoid the term "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" on the ingredient list of margarines, as well as packaged foods, cookies and crackers.

DON’T forget to go fishing. Fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, is good for cholesterol. It is recommended to eat at least 6-8 ounces of baked or broiled fish each week. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and halibut are excellent sources.


OTHER HEART HEALTHY TIPS:

DON’T smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. It decreases your HDL (high density lipoprotein, the good cholesterol) levels.

DO get moving. Physical activity is an important part of a heart-healthy routine. It can also help you control your weight and lower your blood pressure. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of activity every day.

DO lose weight, if you are overweight. People who maintain a healthful weight (a BMI of 18-24) are not only less likely to develop heart disease, but also high blood pressure and diabetes. Lose unwanted pounds by eating fewer calories and increasing your physical activity on a regular basis.

DON’T forget to know your numbers. Get your blood cholesterol levels checked yearly.


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Member Comments

  • Good key things to follow. But that can change when one has Diabetes which makes the triglycerides spike and the cholesterol hard to control.
  • Good info, I'm trying hard to get that number down. Will have to apply some of these hint to my healthy living!
  • yes heredity plays part in cholesterol levels in the body so parts of this piece is incomplete
  • In the light of all the new research & studies that have come out IN THE LAST 12 YEARS..why does Spark continue to regurgitate older articles that some points within have clearly been overturned?
  • and sometimes it is just not the food but your heredity that causes high cholesterol
  • BILLTHOMSON
    Besides working on my high blood-sugar, I'm working on my cholesterol, what a challenge.
  • This is about the first article and read. My DH has his fathers GENES , his father was 60 when he died. He was very thin and agile, he never smoked but he did work in industry.
    DH and I have read this article I printed it and he read it and I think the article is still in his home desk drawer.
  • I am very thankful for this article.
    This is a very scary subject for me, with respect to family history!
    Blessings, each of you :)
  • there are times where we can eat all the healthy things which help keep cholesterol low and then something that we can not control comes in, our heredity. you just can not change what your family has given you
  • If these tips don't work--try what I do-- I follow a LCHF diet and my cholesterol went down 90 points in 2 months.
  • I was just reading the information in the reference section on fats and oils at http://www.sparkp
    eople.com/res
    ource/referen
    ce_fats.asp and it has olives listed in 2 different section in the chart at the bottom of that page. In the fruits & veggies section is states to only have olives 3 or 4 times per week, but in the fats and oils section it states to choose Olives and olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil daily. Not that it really matters to me since I don't eat olives, but that is a bit confusing.
  • I needed to see this again!
  • JUNEBUG_22C
    Some days you just can't win! BUT! Then there are OTHERS!

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.