Good cholesterol is essential to maintaining a healthy heart while bad cholesterol causes coronary artery disease. Cholesterol is very similar to fats. LDL, or “bad” cholesterol can lead to a condition where cholesterol formes fatty deposits and clogs blood vessels, also known as atherosclerosis. This increases the risk of angina and heart attack.
The heart is protected by HDL, which is known as “good” cholesterol. As researchers say, the HDL carries the cholesterol away from the arteries, to the liver, where it is eventually passed from the body. They even suggest that HDL removes extra plaque from the arteries.
There is a blood test you can take every month to find out what your LDL and HDL levels are.
A healthy cholesterol level is below 200. If the test results are 200 or above, you need to take action to raise your level of good cholesterol and lower the level of the bad; start eating right, get off the couch and possibly take a cholesterol lowering medication.
Natural foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the most important part of a healthy diet. Foods which contain large amounts of cholesterol, such as eggs, shellfish, shrimp and liver, should be avoided. Also avoid unsaturated fats, which can be done by using vegetable oil when cooking and switching from whole milk to skim milk. Try sticking to smaller portions of healthier meats like chicken without the skin or lean pork and beef. Eating smaller portions is a good start to a working diet. This doesn’t mean not eating. If you commit to a low-fat, dairy free plan, it’s alright to eat smaller portions of food three to four times per day.
A balanced diet should include healthy food, like fruits and veggies and breads and cereals made from whole grains. Avoid having food with high cholesterol content, which includes eggs, shellfish, shrimp and liver. Use vegetable oil, rather than unsaturated fats during cooking; and drink skim milk rather than whole milk. Choose cuts of meat without large amounts of fat on them, like chicken breasts, and make sure you only eat a fist-sized portion. Successful diets often involve eating smaller portions. Being on a diet doesn’t necessarily mean starving yourself. If you follow the low-fat, non dairy plan, it is OK to have 3 or 4 meals a day with small portions of food.
Last, lower your cholesterol level through physical activity. Bad cholesterol can be decreased and good cholesterol increased just by exercising for 30 minutes a day. Schedule an appointment with your doctor for a blood test if you don’t know your cholesterol level. It’s beneficial not only to your health, but also your heart.