Walking down a grocery store aisle, you may notice some items toting phrases such as “lowers your cholesterol” or “heart healthy.”
These benefits are often sought after because high cholesterol is an issue one in every six American adults is dealing with (despite it not having any apparent symptoms), and it’s a risk that can potentially lead to severe consequences — including coronary heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance the body uses to produce cells, vitamins, and other hormones. A person’s liver generally produces enough cholesterol, but a person’s diet can also include cholesterol.
Not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is commonly known as “good” cholesterol. If you have too little HDL, it can increase the risk of the “bad” kind (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) building up within your arteries.
A person’s lifestyle — diet, exercise, and weight management — contributes to their cholesterol levels. And in some cases, a person may be prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicine.
The following suggestions below are proven to support healthy cholesterol levels:
- Limit salt
- Restrict saturated and trans fats
- Avoid cholesterol-heavy foods (like meat, dairy, and tropical oils) and consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol a day
- Choose healthy fats, including lean meats and unsaturated oils
- Consume soluble fiber in the form of whole-grain products, beans, lentils, and certain produce
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Eat fish like tuna and salmon, high in omega-3 fatty acids
While it’s essential to exercise and consume a healthy diet, know that other factors can play a role. Smoking and drinking alcohol can contribute to high cholesterol, as well as increased stress levels, age, other health conditions (i.e., diabetes, PCOS, Lupus), and even family genetics.