Cholesterol is a waxy-like substance that comes from two sources: Your body or food. Food sources of cholesterol include dairy products that are full-fat, meat and poultry. If you have a diet that is high in saturated or trans fats, your body will produce more cholesterol as a result.
More often than not, when we think of cholesterol we almost always think of the bad kind. This is known as Low Density Lipoproteins – or LDL. Having high LDL levels can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries – blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body. When LDL levels are high, plaque can form and cause a blockage in the arteries, which then makes it difficult for the heart to properly circulate blood. Excess plaque buildup can also cause blood clots, leading to stroke or heart attacks. Alternatively, High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) works to remove the plaque buildup and expel it from your body. It is important to note that having too much or not enough of one type of cholesterol can put you at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, so it is important to be aware of your cholesterol levels so that your physician can work with you to develop a strategy to lessen that risk.
Firstly, making healthy eating choices. Butter, hard margarines, lard, fatty meats, high in fat dairy products and coconut or palm oils all contain higher levels of cholesterol. Rather than using oils that are saturated with animal fats, you could substitute them for olive oil, canola oil or peanut oil. Instead of eating white rice, you could substitute it for brown rice. Flax seeds and garlic can also significantly reduce cholesterol levels by as much as 12%, and are easy to incorporated into foods such as baked goods, salads, low-fat dressing, soups and sandwiches. Eating unsalted nuts such as peanuts, pistachios, walnuts and almonds, tofu, tomatoes and watermelon are also great low-cholesterol food options.
The City of Vancouver in partnership with VGH and St. Paul’s Hospital offers the Healthy Heart Program to individuals who have or are at risk of developing heart disease. Vancouver’s Healthy Heart Program provides individuals with educational tools, guides to healthy eating, as well as exercise classes.
If you would like more information on exercise, its benefits, and help on how to make healthy food choices, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Wordpress blog at http://alighahary.wordpress.com. You can also connect with Dr. Ghahary on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.