How much do you know about cholesterol? It can be confusing, because your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, yet high cholesterol is a bad thing. Let’s take a deeper look at cholesterol and the associated risk factors that you can control.
Cholesterol is a waxy material found in fats. There are two types of cholesterol, each named for the kind of protein it’s attached to when traveling through the blood. Because a protein combined with cholesterol is a lipoprotein, the two types are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL, the “good” cholesterol, picks up extra cholesterol in the blood and takes it to the liver, where it’s metabolized and moved out of the body. LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol because it moves particles through your body and sticks to the walls of your blood vessels. This makes the vessels narrow and hard, increasing your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Some things that raise your risk of high cholesterol are beyond your control, like your age and your family history. There are a few risk factors you can control, lowering your numbers. These include:
- Diet: To lower cholesterol, steer clear of saturated fats, trans fats, and foods high in cholesterol, like red meat and full-fat dairy, in favor of foods like oats, whole grains, and fatty fish.
- Weight: About 35 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese, meaning their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or over. If you need to decrease your body weight, choose healthy food and drinks, recording the calories your food in a food diary, and increase your physical activity to burn more calories than you eat.
- Sedentary Habits: Getting in 30 minutes of exercise each day can decrease your cholesterol and reduce your weight. There’s no need to go to the gym or run a marathon: try walking, running, swimming, or yoga, increasing your activity gradually.
- Smoking: Cigarettes can damage the walls of your blood vessels, making them more likely to hold onto fatty substances, like cholesterol. Smoking can also lower your HDL. The good news is that when you quit smoking, your good cholesterol increases in fewer than three weeks after your last cigarette. Even if you’re a lifelong smoker, quitting now can improve your heart health.
- Diabetes Control: High blood sugar can cause bad cholesterol levels to increase. It’s important to follow your doctor’s plan for treatment of your diabetes, including recommendations for diet, exercise, and medications.
If you need a primary care doctor for your family in Dallas & Balch Springs, TX, trust Foremost Family Health Centers to care for you. We’ve been providing affordable family medicine to the Dallas community since we opened our doors as Martin Luther King, Jr Family Clinic in 1986. We want to see you thrive, so we provide comprehensive general medicine, regardless of your ability to pay. Call us at 214-377-0887 or contact us through the website for an appointment.
Important COVID-19 Update: Healthy Cooking Classes and Lactation Classes have been cancelled due to COVID-19. If you are interested in Lactation Consultations, please contact Karen Bell directly to set up a telehealth appointment.