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Cholesterol Levels: A Telling Indicator of Diet and Exercise

ROCHESTER, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Diet and lifestyle choices aren’t only evident on the bathroom scale.

The effect of these choices is also reflected with relative accuracy in

cholesterol numbers.

The May issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter looks at how an individual’s

lifestyle choices can affect “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels as well

as levels of triglycerides, another blood fat.

Cholesterol isn’t inherently bad. It’s essential to normal body

functions and is found in every cell of the body. Cholesterol helps with

digestion and hormone production. But too much puts blood vessels at

risk. Cholesterol and triglycerides travel through the bloodstream,

attached to proteins called lipoproteins. Deposits of excess low-density

lipoprotein, the “bad” cholesterol, in the blood vessel walls result in

narrowing. As blood flow is restricted, the risk of heart attack, stroke

or sudden death increases.

Two factors affecting total cholesterol, age and heredity, can’t be

controlled. But many can.

For elevated LDL (“bad”) cholesterol: The leading contributor to

elevated LDL cholesterol is a diet high in saturated and trans fats. To

reduce LDL levels, limit saturated fats, trans fats and high-cholesterol

foods. To improve your cholesterol, use cholesterol-lowering foods made

with plant sterols, for example, the margarine-like spreads. Another

strategy is to eat more foods high in soluble fiber, such as oatmeal,

apples and kidney beans.

For low HDL (“good”) cholesterol: A sedentary lifestyle and lack of

exercise are major causes of low HDL levels. To make a difference,

significantly increase the frequency and intensity of exercise. Also

beneficial is boosting HDL-friendly omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating

fatty fish (salmon, mackerel) or taking fish oil supplements.

For high triglycerides: Contributors to high triglyceride levels are

being overweight, a high intake of sugary food and excess alcohol

consumption. To lower triglyceride levels, cut back on calories, limit

sugar and alcohol, and get regular exercise. Other strategies include

losing excess weight, eating more whole grains and taking fish oil

supplements.

Sometimes, diet and lifestyle choices alone aren’t enough to manage

total cholesterol levels. Yet, diet and exercise are important

management strategies even when cholesterol-lowering medications are

indicated.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of

reliable, accurate and practical information on today’s health and

medical news. To subscribe, please call 1-800-333-9037 (toll-free),

extension 9771, or visit www.HealthLetter.MayoClinic.com.

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