About Healthy Low-Cholesterol Diets

By Linda Ray

Healthy low-cholesterol diets can help protect your heart and circulatory system. While you need both kinds of cholesterol-- high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL)--for optimum health, too much LDL can silently erode your vascular system by blocking arteries, causing stroke and heart disease.

Symptoms

High cholesterol presents no symptoms until a major health event takes place, such as a stroke or heart attack. A lipid profile test can provide patients with their cholesterol numbers and indicate a diet plan. HDL levels that are higher than 60 can put a person at risk for heart disease, and LDL levels should be less than 100, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Risks

People who are overweight usually have high cholesterol levels because of the eating patterns they've developed and are at greater risk for heart disease. Poor eating habits that are high in fat raise cholesterol levels. Cleveland Clinic doctors say that for every point cholesterol levels are lowered, the risk of heart disease is lowered by 2 percent.

Changes

The Mayo Clinic reports that while drugs are available to help lower cholesterol levels, lifestyle changes are the ideal way to get the best numbers and provide a better quality of life. Losing weight is the first line of defense in lowering cholesterol. A 5- to 10-pound loss can make a difference. Snacking on fruits and vegetables will not only help with weight loss, but the high fiber content in the fresh foods also serves to lower cholesterol.

Fat

Fat is an important ingredient in the daily diet--in moderation. Mayo Clinic doctors recommend 10 percent of daily calories should come from fat. Healthy fat can be found in olive oil, almonds and walnuts. Trans fats, such as those found in most processed food and margarines, only serve to raise the bad cholesterol levels and lower the good ones. Even small amounts of trans fats can have a negative effect.

Best Choices

In addition to fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains make good food choices on a diet meant to maintain low-cholesterol levels. The nutrients found in whole-grain bread and pasta, oatmeal and brown rice can promote healthy blood flow. Fish is a good choice, especially those low in fat, such as tuna and halibut. In addition, adding omega-3 fatty acids like those found in salmon and mackerel also provide heart-healthy nutrients.

Activity

In addition to diet, physical activity can affect cholesterol levels. Highly physical activities such as running and tennis can drastically improve cholesterol levels. A study done by the Department of Physical and Health Education at the University of Texas found that golfing also can help to decrease cholesterol levels. After 10 weeks, golfers in the study decreased their serum cholesterol levels by about 5 percent.

About The Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist who's spent more than 20 years doing in-depth research and reporting on trends in health care and fitness for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success," "Verve," and "American City Business Journals." In addition to sports and alternative therapies, Ray has extensive experience covering banking, commercial development and people. Ray has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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