Elevated cholesterol readings often follow us into middle age and beyond. As overall cholesterol readings creep up past 200, doctors begin to warn their patients to work at reducing blood levels to readings at 160 or below.
Failure to control high cholesterol can lead to plaque build-up in the lining of our arteries, eventually causing narrowing of the walls that can bring on strokes, heart attacks, and other circulatory disorders, some of which may be life-threatening.
If your doctor has suggested that you take steps to lower your cholesterol level or keep it at a healthy level, here are some tips that may help:
- Maintain a healthy weight for your build. Life insurance charts may indicate that people of certain heights should weigh somewhere in a range of a certain number of pounds. Sometimes these charts are divided by gender and build based on bone size (small, medium, large). For example, a typical 5’2″ woman of the normal build should weigh between 105 and 135 lbs. Yet such estimates fail to take into account factors like muscle mass and heredity. A better indicator of ideal weight may be the Body Mass Index, or BMI, which may suggest a 5’2″ woman should weigh 124 lbs. Check with your doctor for a recommended weight goal, then strive to meet it.
- Begin a regular plan of exercise. After getting your doctor’s approval, start slow, and build steadily. For example, you can walk for 10 to 15 minutes each day the first week, adding five minutes each week until you are walking 45 to 60 minutes most days as long as you have no physical discomfort such as aching joints or labored breathing. Even 30 minutes of exercise three times a week can have a positive effect on your health and cholesterol levels.
- Eat fruits and veggies. Aim for five a day, national nutritionists urge. Nine is even better, with one-half fruit or a half cup of veggies as a typical serving. Loaded with antioxidants yet light on calories and fat, a produce-heavy diet can help you reap a harvest of benefits by lowering cholesterol levels and speeding your arrival to a healthy weight.
- Don’t neglect your fiber. Foods like apples, beans, and oatmeal act like brushes in clearing debris from artery walls and reducing cholesterol systematically when these foods are eaten consistently over a period of time. Studies show that people who eat oatmeal most days for breakfast, for example, were able to lower their cholesterol by ten to fifteen percent with six to eight weeks. (Results may differ by individual.)
- Follow the doctor’s orders. Get your physician’s advice on the best way of monitoring your cholesterol and keeping it under control. That means taking prescribed medication as well as making lifestyle changes like those indicated above. With medical prescriptions, you may need to have blood drawn periodically to be sure the medication is working effectively, so don’t neglect these important follow-up tests.
Cholesterol is a complex byproduct of our bodies’ daily functions. Take care of this vital part of your health to protect against possible illness or disease.