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The Baby Boomer Heart: Cholesterol Rising

People between ages 45-60 years are at risk for high cholesterol. High cholesterol can build up even in trim, active people.

Controlling Cholesterol: What to Do continued...

According to registered dietician Samantha Heller, MS, RD, the first foods to cut are the ones high in saturated fat.

"These are fats that come from animal products, like beef, lamb, and pork, as well as high-fat dairy products such as butter, ice cream, high-fat yogurt or whole milk," says Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist with the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention Center at New York University's Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine.

Equally important, replace tropical oils in your diet such as palm, corn, and coconut oils with heart-healthy oils such as olive, canola, or grape seed oil.

"This allows you to shift the fat content, which lowers LDL and raises HDL," says Underberg. He also suggests increasing soluble fiber, up to 25 grams a day, and adding soy-rich foods such as tofu and soy milk to lower LDL.

To increase HDL he recommends omega-3 fatty acids -- the good fats found in flax seed oil, walnuts, almonds, and fish such as salmon.

Heller suggests avoiding foods that raise triglycerides, such as simple carbohydrates like white bread, cakes, cookies, and pies, as well as french fries and donuts.

Most people make cholesterol out of animal fat, not from cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs or shrimp. But some people are more genetically programmed to make bad LDL cholesterol out of those cholesterol-rich foods. So Heller says it's wise for everyone with high cholesterol to keep these foods to a minimum.

In addition, the American Heart Association says adding the following foods to your diet can also help lower your cholesterol:

  • 5 servings or more of fresh fruits and vegetables daily.
  • 6 or more servings per day of whole-grain, high-fiber products, including whole-wheat breads and cereals, oatmeal, and brown rice.
  • Protein consisting of skinless poultry, very lean meats, fish and legumes (beans).
  • Fat-free and low-fat dairy products.

Plants That Help Lower Cholesterol

In addition to dietary measures, many doctors now recommend the use of "natural plant sterols" to help raise HDL.

They work by competing with human cholesterol, keeping it from getting into our blood vessels where clots can form, says Underberg. Instead, LDL is shuttled off to your liver where it's metabolized and eliminated. Results can be seen in about three weeks.

Cholesterol-lowering margarines containing plant sterols and stanols include Benecol and Take Control.

When Cholesterol Medications Are the Answer

Try as you might, even if you do everything right, your cholesterol may stubbornly remain high. When this is the case, doctors say cholesterol-lowering medications are in order.

Currently, there are five such classes of drugs, nearly all focused on reducing LDL. By far, however, the most frequently prescribed are drugs known as statins.

"These work to slow the body's production of cholesterol and increase the liver's ability to remove LDL from your bloodstream," says Krumholz. They can also reduce triglyceride levels, he says, and can offer a modest increase in HDL.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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