Cholesterol has some important jobs in the body—such as making hormones, aiding digestion, building cell membranes, and making vitamin D—but too much of the waxy substance can pose health risks.
“Cholesterol only becomes a problem when cholesterol levels — and particularly LDL cholesterol — get too high,” said Dr. Robert Pilchik, a cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology and a contributor to LabFinder.com, in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“As total cholesterol and triglyceride levels rise, plaque begins to build up in the blood vessels and arteries,” he continued.
“This raises blood pressure, puts a strain on the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.”
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The best way to avoid these effects is to prevent high blood cholesterol in the first place.
Pilchik, who has expertise in cardiovascular disease and nuclear cardiology, shared six tips to keep health at a healthy level.
1. Make dietary changes
The first, and perhaps the most controllable, way to prevent high cholesterol is to eat a healthy diet, Pilchik said.
He recommended avoiding foods rich in the following:
- Saturated Fatty Acids
- Trans fats (trans fats)
- sodium salt)
- Added Sugar
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“Try eating a diet high in fiber and unsaturated fat instead,” the doctor suggested.
“The Mediterranean diet is often a good choice because it shifts the emphasis from dairy and red meat to seafood, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.”
2. Increase physical activity
“Today in the United States there is an extraordinary number of people who are not doing physical activity, which would be considered healthy,” Pilchik said.
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He pointed out that adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, while children and teenagers need at least one hour per day.
This may include moderate-paced walks, bicycling, or other types of exercise that maintain an elevated heart rate Rate.
“Exercise can become a habit, and forming habits early on can be helpful in preventing health problems later in life,” Pilchik said.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
According to Pilchik, maintaining a healthy weight has numerous health benefits. One of them is improving the body's ability to utilize and remove excess cholesterol in the blood.
“While not a perfect tool, a body mass index (BMI) calculator can help determine whether a person's weight is healthy or not,” he said.
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For those who have a weight loss goal, a combination of dietary habits and physical activity is the safest and most effective approach.
“A doctor can help determine if certain weight loss goals or plans are safe to pursue,” Pilchik said.
4. Avoid smoking
“Smoking alone is generally very detrimental to a person's cardiovascular system, and the effects can be exacerbated by high cholesterol,” Pilchik said.
For people who have never smoked or have already quit smoking, maintaining this lifestyle can be beneficial for heart health.
For those who smoke, quitting can take stress off the heart and allow for some healing, advises Pilchik.
5. Minimize alcohol consumption
Along with smoking, alcohol consumption can have negative effects on the body's health, including elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, Pilchik said.
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“While completely abstaining from alcohol is not always necessary, alcohol consumption should be limited to a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one beverage per day for women,” he said.
6. Take medication as needed
If all other methods have been explored and cholesterol levels are still elevated, Pilchik says it may be appropriate to take medication to control cholesterol levels.
There are several types of cholesterol medications, including statins, bile acid sequestrants, niacin, fibrates, and PCSK9 inhibitors.
“Drugs are a very important and helpful tool in combating high cholesterol, but all drugs come with some risk of side effects,” Pilchik noted.
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“Overcoming high cholesterol with healthy choices earlier in life is always the preferred option.”
What is a healthy cholesterol level?
There are two types of cholesterol.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol,” has been linked to negative health effects in large amounts.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good cholesterol,” may help lower the risk of certain diseases.
The liver makes cholesterol, which moves through the bloodstream, by attaching itself to a fatty substance called lipoprotein, Pilchik said.
Cholesterol is also ingested through food.
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“Blood cholesterol is measured in mg/dl. A total cholesterol of 150 mg/dl is a good healthy target, and levels above 200 mg/dl are considered high,” he noted.
“LDL cholesterol should ideally be around 100 mg/dl,” he said.
“HDL cholesterol should be 40 mg/dL or higher in men and 50 mg/dL or higher in women.”
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Blood cholesterol levels can be measured with a simple blood test.
Pilchik added, “For healthy adults, it's a good idea to have it checked at every annual physical.”