Show me your numbers
As part of my focus on healthy living this year, I made sure to schedule my physical.
How was I doing with my cholesterol levels? Was I at a healthy weight?
Is there something that I incorporate into my day to improve my overall health and wellbeing?
What recommendations did my Family Nurse Practitioner have for me?
Well, I had my physical and the numbers are in. My total cholesterol was high at 229 mg/dL, as was my LDL or “bad” cholesterol at 152 mg/dL. The good news was my HDL or “good” cholesterol was strong at 60 mg/dL, whew! Why are my cholesterol levels concerning? With LDL, lower is better. Time to make some changes!
The bad cholesterol can build up in the arteries as plaque. The arteries can become clogged and narrow, and blood flow is reduced. If the buildup of plaque ruptures, a blood clot may form at this location or a piece may break off and travel in the bloodstream, causing a heart attack or stroke.
Yes! Heart Attack. My numbers indicate that I am at high risk. I found excellent information on the American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic website. Go to the link below to find out more about the warning signs of a heart attack. And remember, women tend to have different symptoms than men.
What better month to focus on the heart than February!
The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women is the national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women because it’s not just a man’s disease. In fact, more women than men die every year from heart disease and stroke. The good news is that 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.
Given my cholesterol numbers as well as my weight (above the healthy range for my age and height), I will be making some changes. I have already put daily movement in my healthy living routine – walking, Zumba, stationary bike. So I decided to explore adapting my eating habits to reduce my cholesterol.
Dietary changes to improve cholesterol levels
From a dietary standpoint, the best way to lower your cholesterol is reduce saturated fat and trans-fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to 5 to 6 percent of daily calories and minimizing the amount of trans-fat you eat.
This means limiting your intake of red meat and dairy products made with whole milk. (Choosing skim milk, low-fat or fat-free dairy products instead.) It also means limiting fried food and cooking with healthy oils, such as vegetable oil.
A heart-healthy diet
In addition to limiting red meat and dairy, I needed to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts, while decreasing or eliminating sugary foods and beverages. Eating this way may also help to increase your fiber intake, which is beneficial. A diet high in fiber can help lower cholesterol levels by as much as 10 percent. The link below can provide more information on cooking to lower your cholesterol.
Additional measures to consider when focusing on your health heart:
- Eat heart-healthy foods – avocados, walnuts, salmon, soluble fiber; soluble fiber is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.
- Get physically active – Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight.
- Quit smoking – Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level and the benefits occur quickly.
- Lose weight – Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. The heart healthy eating and getting in daily exercise with help lose weight.
- Drink alcohol in moderation – If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
Take time this month to focus on your heart. Do you know your cholesterol levels? Are you physically active? It will be time well spent.