Not all fats are bad and unhealthy. Certain fats can be good for us – like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (olive, canola, and peanut oil, nuts, seeds and fatty fish).
Lifestyle changes to lower your LDL levels. (Remember you want LDL to be low, not high)
1. Make better dietary choices: avoid trans fats, or any processed foods.
2. Lose extra body fat: Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
3. Decrease the drinks: Alcoholic drinks, that is! Water is still good for you! In general, it is recommended that women have no more than 1 drink/day, and men 2 drinks/day.
4. Trim that waistline: For women, a waist circumference of 35 inches (89 centimeters) increases her risk. For her male counterpart, a waist circumference of 40 inches (102 centimeters) increases his risk.
5. Get your body moving: Doing cardiovascular exercise and weight training increases your body’s metabolism and boost your body’s HDL cholesterol production. Exercise also makes your bad LDL less harmful by making the size of the LDL particles smaller.
6. Stop the cigarettes and nip it in the bud: There are no beneficial effects of tobacco use. Cigarette smoking leads to atherosclerosis. Don’t smoke!
7. Diabetes: We know that by having high levels of sugar causes many problems in the body, including atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Another factor that affects your risk for high LDL cholesterol is your genetic makeup. Yes, your family may carry specific genes that put you at a higher risk. In general, about 1/400 cases of high cholesterol are due to family history (familial hypercholesterolemia- FH) and less than 20 percent are actually treated. This is because most people don’t get tested and why it’s so important to get your lipid panel checked.
If the above lifestyle changes aren’t enough or if you carry the gene for FH, your doctor may prescribe a medication or combination of medications to lower your cholesterol levels. The most common medication is called a statin. Some of my patients choose to not take a statin, but use a supplement called Red Rice Yeast Extract, which contains the same molecule as in statin medications. Always check with your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication.
In general, cholesterol levels, or your lipid panel, will be checked every 2-3 years depending on your risk and values. Once a new medication is started, these levels will be checked more frequently.
Many factors contribute to cholesterol levels, including diet, exercise and your genes. By working with your health care provider you can be proactive and decrease your risk for high cholesterol levels. Keep it simple- Want LDL to be low, and HDL to be high.