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Cholesterol: Use What You Know to Improve Your Health 

March 15, 2018

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 12/21/16 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.

The good, the bad, the ugly.

No matter how bad the news is about your cholesterol, there’s generally an upside.

While cholesterol is no joke, and high bad cholesterol levels can really wreak havoc with your health, there are several steps you can take to regain control of your health and manage your levels.

Understanding cholesterol

Fat and protein make up the waxy material that is cholesterol. The body needs cholesterol in order to generate hormones, make vitamin D and facilitate digestion.

Your body makes cholesterol, but it’s also in many of the foods you eat, working its way through the bloodstream, riding on the backs of lipoproteins.

However, the body only needs so much cholesterol. Too much of it of the bad kind of cholesterol, and your risk of stroke or heart attack increases dramatically.

Getting to know good and bad cholesterol

There are two kinds of cholesterol:

  • Bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), are stickier and tend to attach themselves to the artery walls. They become plaque there and eventually stop the flow of blood to the heart. At this point, you’ll have coronary artery disease, which can directly cause a stroke or heart attack.
  • Good cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), play an important role in your body. They route cholesterol to the liver, which then flushes it out of the body so it won’t build up in your arteries. Here are some of the positive benefits good cholesterol provide to your body:
    • Cholesterol helps your body create bile which aids in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.
    • It helps your body turn sunlight into Vitamin D – necessary factors for keeping your bones strong and calcium production at optimum levels.
    • Good cholesterol keeps important hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone at the right levels.

Assessing your health based on cholesterol

There’s a lot you can tell about your overall health just by getting your cholesterol levels checked. You’ll have to visit your doctor and get an order for a blood draw. Be sure to fast before you have your blood drawn for optimal results.

Here’s what a “healthy” cholesterol range will look like:

  • Anything less than 200 milligrams per deciliter for a combined LDL and HDL cholesterol level is good.
  • Your LDL score – remember, this is the “bad” cholesterol – should be less than 100.
  • Your HDL level, or good cholesterol, should be higher than 60.

The reason to be concerned

If your cholesterol numbers are high for the combined score or the HDL level, there is reason to be concerned.

Even though you may feel fine, inside your body, cholesterol is hard at work. Often referred to as the “silent killer,” you won’t experience any symptoms until it may be too late  – after a heart attack or stroke happen.

Some of the common contributors to high cholesterol include smoking, diabetes, genetic causes, poor nutrition or not exercising.

Getting your cholesterol back on track

There’s good news if you want to work on lowering your numbers. You can do a lot to manage cholesterol, including:

  • Managing your diet. Doctors generally recommend avoiding high-cholesterol foods and those high in saturated fat to help control your diet. Check out these foods that are known for their bad-cholesterol-lowering or good-cholesterol-raising properties.
    • Oats
    • Whole grains
    • Beans
    • Okra
    • Eggplant
    • Vegetable oils
    • Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits
    • Soy
    • Fish
    • Red wine
    • Nuts
    • Dark chocolate
  • Exercising. Start moving more. The combined effort of eating better and exercising will help you lose weight (if you need to) and keep your bad cholesterol levels down and your good cholesterol levels up. Here are some exercises that are great, low-impact choices.
    • Brisk walking
    • Swimming
    • Water aerobics
    • Gentle forms of yoga and/or pilates
  • Taking medications. If you can’t manage your cholesterol with diet and exercise, your doctor may recommend medication. Statins such as Lipitor or Crestor  – or generic counterparts – have been documented to help many patients control cholesterol.

The more you know

Receiving the news that your cholesterol level is too high can be a scary diagnosis.

Luckily, there are steps you can take and habits you can change to lower your numbers and reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, or an aneurysm.

Eating the right kinds of foods, engaging in low-impact exercise and keeping up with regular visits to your doctor will ensure you’re doing all that you can to stay healthy and keep your cholesterol under control.

For more tips about your health or for information about how to ensure your health insurance covers the medications and lab tests you need, contact InsureOne Benefits today!

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Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

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