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Even though our body needs cholesterol, a high cholesterol level leads to buildup of plaque on the arterial walls, narrowing the walls (atherosclerosis), reducing blood flow, leading to formation of blood clot resulting in either a heart attack (if the clot blocks an artery to the heart) or a stroke (if the clot blocks an artery to the brain or an artery in the brain).
High levels of cholesterol can be controlled by modifying dietary habits and making changes for the better in one’s lifestyle.
Trans fats lowers your “good cholesterol” (HDL) and increases your “bad cholesterol” (LDL) thereby increasing the risks of heart disease and stroke. Cut out foods rich in trans fats; packaged snack foods like microwave popcorns, candy and chips; fried foods like fried chicken, French fries, chicken nuggets, and breaded fish; pre-mixed foods including pancake, cake mix and chocolate milk; and commercially baked goods such as crackers, muffins, cookies, pizza dough and cakes. These foods can increase your blood cholesterol level increasing the risks of cardiovascular disease.
Unsaturated fats are encouraged as they are the “good fats”, which improve your blood cholesterol levels, reduce the risks of any heart disease and help to control blood sugar. So increase the consumption of foods rich in monounsaturated foods such as olives, avocados, nuts like almonds, cashews, peanuts and hazelnuts and natural peanut butter that have just peanuts and salt. Polyunsaturated foods include walnuts, seeds of sesame, sunflower and pumpkin, flaxseeds, fatty fish like tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines and tofu.
Switchover to cooking in unsaturated oils such as extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil and peanut oil and replace butter with margarine.
In the stomach, soluble fiber binds with the bile, which is made of cholesterol, and removes it. So eat foods rich in soluble fiber such as legumes, dried beans, ground flaxseed, oats, oat bran, fruits and whole-grain cereals.
Increase your intake of vegetables and fruits which can lower your cholesterol. Consume carrots, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, yellow squashes, plums, strawberries; the more the hue, the better it is for you.
Substitute refined flour and white rice with whole grain foods which are rich in fiber. Go for whole wheat flour and brown rice. Oatmeal is good but avoid the quick-cooking products which have lost their fiber while being processed.
Be mindful of the calories that you are taking in with your diet. Following a diet plan, which includes low calories, can help you to lose weight and reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease. Include high-fiber carbohydrate foods like whole grain starches, lentils, oat meals, beans and fruits. These will provide the energy that you need and at the same time, help you to feel full. Stack up your diet with vegetables which are high in fiber but low in calories.
Regular cardiovascular exercise ensures optimum heart health and also helps you to lose weight. So take up walking, rowing, cycling and swimming which utilizes large muscles over and over and increases your heart rate. Though high-intensity exercises are good for your good cholesterol (HDL), risk of injuries is more. So aim for exercises which are of moderate intensity but make sure you do them regularly.
Having balanced cholesterol in your blood is of utmost importance for living a life free from any heart disease. Click here to opt for a disease-free heart.
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