Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans. In fact, according to the CDC, the condition claims approximately 600,000 American lives each year. That’s more than all cancers, respiratory diseases, diabetes and stroke. If you want to minimize the risk that this life-threatening condition exposes you to, you need to be proactive about managing your cholesterol. But what does that actually entail? For many, the concept of preventing excess cholesterol is as elusive as it is intimidating.
Preventing Excess Cholesterol – Diet and Exercise
It’s just about impossible to have a conversation about health without bringing in the whole “diet and exercise” angle, but when it comes to cholesterol management, these things are absolutely paramount. For starters, if we may use an old diet book cliché, you’re going to want to stick to the perimeter of the supermarket, and avoid the processed foods that litter the aisles throughout the store. Stock up on plenty of citrus fruits, grapes, nuts, oats, whole grains, and a moderate amount of fatty fish, as these foods are especially healthy and helpful in cholesterol management.
When reading labels, don’t just look at the cholesterol. Pay attention to the saturated fat and trans fat, as these are the especially harmful types of fat, which raise the probability of developing heart disease. Be sure to limit your intake of red meats and fried foods, and use extra caution when encountering “sugar-free” snacks. You’ll find that these ostensibly healthy treats are quite often loaded with saturated fat in order to compensate for the lack of sugar.
Finally, take time to exercise every day. Physical activity stimulates enzymes to remove LDL cholesterol from the body, and it can also help you to manage your weight. This is especially crucial, as research shows that being overweight raises LDL levels. WebMD recommends at least 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise for cholesterol management.
Is It Time to Take Medication?
Even with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle, preventing excess cholesterol can be extremely difficult for certain people. For instance, if you already have dangerously high cholesterol (LDL cholesterol above 190 mg/dL), it may be time to ask your doctor about cholesterol-lowering medications. And if you have an inherited condition such as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), it’s especially important to manage your cholesterol under a doctor’s supervision, particularly a lipidologist (expert in cholesterol, or lipid, disorders).
Cholesterol management is the simplest and most important way to prevent heart disease, but it does require some serious effort on your part. Be proactive about maintaining your good health; even if your cholesterol is normal right now, it’s never too early to take an interest in your heart health. So grab an orange and head out for a leisurely jog. It just may add valuable years to your life.