Learn about cholesterol’s role in the body and ways to manage it.
Too much of a good thing is bad, and too much of a bad thing is worse. When it comes to cholesterol levels, the proper mix of both good and bad is needed for our bodies to function at an optimal level.
Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in small groupings called lipoproteins. Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol through the body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL/bad) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL/good).
When too much LDL cholesterol (acquired by consuming unhealthy fats) circulates through the body, it can build up on the inner walls of arteries. This plaque narrows the artery, can cause clotting, restricts flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, and leads to greater risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Optimum cholesterol levels
Blood lipid Desirable High risk
Total cholesterol(mg/dl) <200 ≥240
HDL cholesterol (mg/dl) ≥60 Male: <40
LDL cholesterol (mg/dl) <100 CAD LDL <70
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
There are few physical signs of high cholesterol so having it checked through a blood test on a regular basis is important, particularly if you aren’t eating a balanced diet or getting regular exercise.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show:
➔ 71 million American adults (33.5%) have too much LDL
➔ Less than half get treatment
➔ Only 1 out of every 3 have it under control
➔ Exercise, healthy diet and not smoking can reduce LDL levels
Keep these foods in mind when looking for a healthy snack or options to increase your HDL levels:
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains (brown rice, oats, oat bran)
- High-fiber fruits (mango, raspberries, bananas)
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
- Nuts (almonds, pecans, pistachios)
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
- Niacin-rich foods (chicken breast, tomatoes, lettuce)