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Cholesterol: What It Is and How to Manage It

by Ms. Qula Madkin, MSU Extension Service

Did you know people of all ages can have high cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy substance that our bodies use to make cells, vitamins, and other hormones. There are two types of cholesterol LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). So, not all cholesterol is bad. However, problems can occur if your level of bad cholesterol is too high. Cholesterol comes from two sources: our livers and our diets.

Why does cholesterol matter?

High cholesterol increases your risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease), which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Lifestyle change is a key component that can prevent or help manage high cholesterol.

These steps can help:

Number one: Move more. Be physically active in your own way. Do what works best for you so it is a habit you can maintain. An excellent place to start is with at least 10 minutes a day. If you are already active, consider adding 10 minutes to your routine. If you count your steps, shoot for 7,000 to 10,000 steps or more each day. Low-impact exercises include walking, swimming and dancing around the house to your favorite music!

Number two: Include more heart-smart foods in your diet. Beans and legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a diet rich in fiber may reduce cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends people consume fish, such as salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, mackerel and trout, two times per week. Aim to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eat less food with added sugar, salt and fat. Check food labels and prepare more foods at home so you can control what is added to your food.

Number three: Lose weight if you need to, but try not to be overwhelmed. Losing 3 to 5% of your body weight, or 5-10 pounds, is a great start for most people.

Number four: Don’t smoke or at least consider smoking less. Smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease. For help quitting smoking, visit the Mississippi State Department of Health website or call 1-800-QUITNOW.

When it comes to cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends you: check, change and control. That is:

  • Check your cholesterol levels. It’s key to know your numbers and assess your risk.

  • Change your diet and lifestyle to help improve your levels.

  • Control your cholesterol, with help from your doctor if needed

Remember, high cholesterol is a serious condition and a major risk factor for heart disease. Healthy food choices and physical activity can positively impact your heart’s health. Make an effort to decrease your risk with these lifestyle changes. For more helpful tips like these and heart healthy recipes, visit extension.msstate.edu and join the MSU Extension Nutrition and Wellness Facebook Group.

For more information about cholesterol and heart disease, visit the American Heart Association website.

For more information about dietary fiber, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.


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