High cholesterol significantly increases an individual’s risk of heart disease and stroke, especially if it goes untreated. There are several lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your cholesterol. You can eat healthy foods, reach and maintain a healthy weight and be physically active. Cholesterol is naturally produced by the liver but also enters the body through the food you eat. Making smart choices and simple food swaps when it comes to the fat you consume can help keep your cholesterol levels under control.
Exercise is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle and has been shown have the added benefit of improving your cholesterol. You can start with a simple walking schedule – any exercise helps!
When you are trying to manage your cholesterol, it’s important to consider the type and quantity of fat you eat. Saturated and trans fats are considered high in bad cholesterol, or LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and should be limited. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, help build good cholesterol, or HDL (High-density lipoprotein). An easy way to ensure you are getting the right foods and portions each meal is by following the My Plate method. This method recommends filling ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, zucchini and bell peppers, ¼ your plate with a whole grain starch, such as brown rice, and the other ¼ with a lean protein, such as chicken or fish.
While it is okay to indulge on special occasions, you should avoid desserts and high-sugar foods as much as possible. When indulging, try to take smaller portions than you normally would.
It can take time to change your eating habits, which is why it helps to start with small changes that can build healthier eating styles. You can start by swapping out your regular pasta or bread for a whole grain option or adding more fruit and vegetables to each meal. Fortunately, the exceptional team of registered dietitians at Cone Health are dedicated to educating individuals and families about making the right choices and reading food labels to help manage their cholesterol.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a nutritionist, you can call the Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center at (336) 832-3236.
Debbie Underwood is the clinical nutrition manager of Cone Health’s inpatient dietitian services at the Moses Cone, Wesley Long and Annie Penn Hospital campuses. Underwood received a Bachelor of Science in food and nutrition from UNCG in 1977. She completed her dietetic internship at the University of Alabama, Birmingham in 1978. She has been with Cone Health for 31 years.