Most Americans lack adequate knowledge about their cholesterol. Terms like “good” and “bad” cholesterol are thrown around a lot, but things can get confusing.
One thing people do know is that keeping cholesterol in check is an important component of overall health, and specifically heart health. High cholesterol can make it difficult for blood to flow through arteries and blood vessels, forcing your heart to work harder and cutting off the availability of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your organs.
High cholesterol can sneak up on you. You don’t feel it, and you certainly don’t see it. About 40 percent of American adults have total cholesterol above 200 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL), which is considered borderline to moderately elevated.
High cholesterol is when total cholesterol is 240 mg/dL or higher.
But not all cholesterol is created equal. There is “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDL cholesterol. The “bad” type of LDL are dense little pebble-like structures that accumulate along arterial walls. “Good” HDL cholesterol floats through the bloodstream to remove these particles.
Ultimately, higher HDL is a benefit to heart health, while high LDL is detrimental.
You can get a handle on LDL and HDL with a little TLC.
A TLC approach to lowering cholesterol involves “therapeutic lifestyle changes.”
The lifestyle changes involve a heart-healthy diet, increased physical activity, and weight management.
Thankfully, the first two components generally result in the third. So, what does the TLC approach look like?
A heart-healthy eating plan involves plenty of high-fiber foods. Fiber helps remove LDL build-up to promote improved blood flow. Whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like oats and quinoa are all high-fiber options that can help reduce cholesterol.
But eating more of the good stuff is only half of the story. High sugar foods contribute to elevated LDL, as do other processed items. Limiting intake of these is another way you can use TLC to manage cholesterol.
Complement your dietary efforts with more exercise. Exercise helps boost metabolism, relax arteries, and produce long-term benefits for your heart.
The better your diet and the more active your lifestyle, the better chance you have of having safe cholesterol levels. This isn’t always the case. Some genetic conditions can lead to elevated cholesterol. However, most people should experience benefits from TLC.