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When you get a complete cholesterol test—sometimes called a lipid panel or lipid profile—the numbers you get back on your charts may be confusing for the untrained eye to interpret. In addition to measuring the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, you’ll see three more calculations for low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides.
LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that causes the buildup of plaque in your arteries. Too much plaque can clog your arteries and cause a heart attack or stroke. Those with high levels of LDL may benefit from cholesterol-lowering medication to ensure your blood is flowing freely through your arteries.
Before prescribing medication, your doctor may first recommend some lifestyle changes to help improve your cholesterol levels. Simple day-to-day interventions can be the first line of treatment.
Make time for exercise
Exercise has always been a cornerstone for good heart health that also helps improve cholesterol. Intense aerobic exercises that raise the heart rate for a long duration will provide you the greatest benefits. But if exercise isn’t part of your normal routine, don’t let that discourage you. Even low-intensity exercise like walking increases HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Losing just a few extra pounds can help lower your total cholesterol.
Eat a heart-healthy diet
What you eat can have a significant impact on your cholesterol levels. Steer clear of saturated and trans fats, and instead substitute healthier unsaturated fats that you can find in fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Foods high in fiber can help lower your LDL levels, so opt for whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals. The more fruits and vegetables, the better––they’re full of fiber and cholesterol-blocking molecules called sterols and stanols. Think you know the difference between fats in your food?
Limit your vices
Smoking changes the way your body handles cholesterol by hindering its ability to send cholesterol back to the liver to be stored or broken down. The good news is that quitting the habit can reverse these effects. Talk to your doctor about developing a plan to help you stop smoking. It’s one of the best things you can do for your heart health.
Those with high cholesterol are twice as likely to develop heart disease. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol levels checked, especially if risk factors you can’t control like family history and age put you at a higher risk for having high cholesterol. Everyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked at least once every five years.
The material set forth in this site in no way seeks to diagnose or treat illness or to serve as a substitute for professional medical care. Please speak with your health care provider if you have a health concern or if you are considering adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines. For permission to reprint any portion of this website or to be removed from a notification list, please contact us at (856) 537-6772