If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, there's a good reason. Heart disease kills more Americans each year (roughly 650,000) than any other health condition, and high cholesterol is a major risk factor.
Here at Metropolitan Cardiovascular Consultants, Dr. Ayim Djamson and our team encourage patients to learn about their risk for heart disease and to make choices that promote heart health. Keeping your cholesterol within a healthy range is a good place to start.
Before you can take steps to protect your heart, it’s important to know your cholesterol numbers. When you visit us for a checkup, Dr. Djamson checks the levels of different types of cholesterol in your blood.
Total cholesterol is the amount of all types of cholesterol circulating in your blood. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is a good form of cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein is a harmful type. A cholesterol checkup also includes checking another type of fat, known as triglycerides.
Know your numbers
An unhealthy cholesterol profile puts you at risk for heart disease. For good health, we recommend that adults aim for:
- Total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl)
- LDL of less than 100 mg/dl
- HDL of greater than 40 mg/dl for men; greater than 50 mg/dl for women
- Triglycerides below 150 milligrams per deciliter
Steps you can take to lower your numbers now
The good news about cholesterol is that you can change your numbers. Here are five tips to get you started.
1: Quit smoking
Smoking has a detrimental impact on many aspects of your health. When it comes to your heart health, smoking damages blood vessels and promotes hardening of the arteries. That is in addition to lowering good cholesterol and raising harmful cholesterol. If you’ve previously tried to quit smoking without success, talk to your doctor about medicine and programs to help you quit.
2: Maintain a healthy weight
Carrying excess weight contributes to an array of health problems, including elevated cholesterol. Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat. A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. You’re considered overweight when your BMI is 25 to 29.9, and obesity is classified as 30 or above. Losing weight has a positive influence on not only cholesterol but also blood pressure and blood glucose, and it lowers your risk for most chronic diseases.
3: Adopt a healthy diet
You can lower your total cholesterol and LDL numbers and improve HDL by making healthy food choices. Adding specific foods may offer more protection. Excellent foods to include are:
- Berries and apples
- Eggplant and okra
The soluble fiber in the grains, fruits, and veggies absorbs cholesterol in your digestive tract and takes it out of your body. The healthy fats in salmon, soy, and nuts help to reduce the production of LDL. Most Americans fail to get enough fiber and healthy fats. Starting here is a step in the right direction.
4: Move more
Lack of exercise increases the risk for chronic health problems such as high cholesterol. Engaging in regular physical activity helps your heart and circulatory system stay strong. It improves your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Exercise helps the body manage cholesterol by boosting the elimination of LDL. Getting plenty of exercise also helps to maintain a healthy weight, further improving cholesterol.
5: Drink only in moderation
As with smoking, excess alcohol consumption raises cholesterol and promotes atherosclerosis, which both increase the risk of stroke. If you’re healthy and free of risk factors, it’s best to moderate your alcohol consumption. If you have health conditions such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol, it’s wise to limit or avoid alcohol altogether. Moderate alcohol intake is one alcoholic drink per day for women and two drinks for men.
It’s never too late to make changes
Making the right changes can turn things around so you feel better, stay healthier and live longer. If you’d like to know more about your cholesterol numbers and how we can help, visit us here at Metropolitan Cardiovascular Consultants by calling one of our offices: in Beltsville, Bowie, and Columbia, Maryland. You can also request an appointment using our online scheduler, or send a message to Dr. Djamson and the team here on our website.