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Did you know there is a “good” kind of cholesterol and a “bad” kind of cholesterol? The “bad” kind—LDL, short for low-density lipoprotein—collects in your blood vessel walls, increasing your chances of a heart attack or stroke. The “good” kind—HDL, short for high-density lipoprotein—moves through your blood vessels on the other hand, actually removing the bad kind! Cholesterol, in its entirety, is therefore an essential fat that provides stability to your cells.

Let’s focus on the “bad” kind of cholesterol for a moment. High levels of LDL—what we commonly know as high cholesterol—can lead to heart problems including:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Heart disease, including chest pain (angina) and heart attack
  • Stroke

Along with your trusted healthcare provider, you can discuss the percentage by which you need to lower your “bad” cholesterol. But there are a few things you can do at home to reduce your risk of high cholesterol.

The facts about fat

The #1 thing you can do is ban trans fats—found in store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes—from your diet. Even ones that say “partially hydrogenated oil” under the Nutrition Facts are trans fats in disguise. You’ve probably heard these buzz words for years, and there’s a reason they’re on the no-fly list.

Decreasing saturated fats to less than 7% of your total daily calorie intake can also help reduce your LDL cholesterol by 8-10%, according to the Mayo Clinic. This means limiting your red meat, fried food, and whole milk dairy products intake. Anything with high amounts of sodium, sugar, and sweetened beverages are best consumed in moderation, as well.

A heart healthy diet

By diet we don’t mean limiting your intake, we mean creating a meal plan that’s heavy on the fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. One way to control what you’re eating is to cook more at home to ensure nutritious ingredients. The Canadian Heart and Stroke foundation has also laid out the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension) Diet here, for a more in-depth look at sample menus for an overall heart healthy eating approach.

Increasing the amount of fibre you eat is one of the best ways to steer your diet in the heart healthy direction. We’re talking 21 – 38 g of foods naturally high in fibre every day, such as:

·     Oats or oat bran

·     Barley

·     Oranges

·     Eggplant

·     Sweet potatoes

·     Broccoli

·     Avocado

·     Kale, spinach or arugula

·     Chickpeas

·     Flaxseeds

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, tuna and herring, are also a great addition to your weekly rotation, as they can reduce your triglycerides and blood pressure, and your risk of developing blood clots.

It’s in your genes

You can eat as healthy as you like all day every day, but occasionally, your genes have a say in the matter as well. Medication might just have to be the way to go to help reduce your high cholesterol. However, a healthy lifestyle of nutritious eating and exercise do play a significant role in helping reduce your risk of high cholesterol in the first place, and thereby could help lower the inevitable dosage of medication in the long run.

For Verve Senior Living’s fresh take on dining, see how the preparation and ingredients of our Living Loving Local dining program are an essential part of maintaining overall health.

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