Fifty percent of Americans have high cholesterol, according to recent statistics from the American Heart Association (AHA). Worse yet, 17 percent of Americans have a blood cholesterol level over 240, which puts them at high risk for heart attack and stroke. These rates are alarming, but there is something we can do about it! Many people can improve their cholesterol levels through diet and exercise. In fact, with just small changes in what you eat and by being more active, you can make great strides toward reducing your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is produced in your liver. It has many functions in the body, such as:
- Fat digestion
- It is an important part of cell membranes
- Production of hormones like cortisone, adrenaline, estrogen and testosterone
Despite having several roles in the body, you only need a small amount of cholesterol and any leftovers are deposited in your arteries. This excess cholesterol contributes to narrowing of the arteries and blockages that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
I will be specifically talking about two types of cholesterol: HDL, which I refer to as your “healthy” cholesterol and LDL, which I refer to as your “lousy” cholesterol. To put it simply you want to keep your healthy cholesterol level high and your lousy cholesterol level low. Just remember HDL/ Healthy/ High and LDL/ Lousy/ Low. Both types of cholesterol are affected by diet and exercise. While many people can control their cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes, some people do require medication.
Diet and Cholesterol
The good news is that diet and exercise can help you keep your healthy cholesterol high and your lousy cholesterol low. Eggs have taken a beating when it comes to low cholesterol diets. This is because the AHA recommends limiting dietary cholesterol to 300 mg. per day and a single egg has 210 mg. of cholesterol, nearly your daily limit! However, recent research shows that it is dietary fat, not dietary cholesterol, that has the largest impact on your blood cholesterol levels.