All those meals consisting of the leftover food on your kids’ plates–deep-fried chicken fingers, mac and cheese, hamburgers and hot dogs–not only wreak havoc on your figure, they can lead to high cholesterol. That’s just what you need, right? Well, it’s time to take care of yourself first for a change before your cholesterol level gets out of control.
So, What’s the Big Deal?
The worst-case scenario from artery-clogging high cholesterol is a heart attack or stroke. But let’s not go there. Your body needs some cholesterol to ensure proper functioning of all your cells, but it’s time to take action when your overall level goes over 200 milligrams per deciliter, or when your LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or bad cholesterol, goes above 130 mg/dl. You won’t feel any symptoms of high cholesterol, so it’s important you get it checked every five years if you’re healthy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Step Away from the Cake
Foods high in trans fat and saturated fat are big villains in raising your cholesterol. So, those leftovers you eat and that cake from never-ending birthday parties are playing a role. Red meat, fried foods, fast food, whole milk products and commercial baked goods–you know, all the things kids love–could be affecting your health. But food is not the only source of high cholesterol. You are at higher risk for high levels if you’re overweight, diabetic, inactive or if your family has a history of high cholesterol.
A Hill of Beans
It’s not the end of the world if you have high cholesterol–just the end of fast food and cake. One solution lies in your diet. Soluble fiber, plant sterols and omega-3 fatty acids can help you lower your LDL levels. Soluble fiber-rich foods–including beans, oatmeal, more beans, apples, oat bran and pears–work in the intestines to reduce the absorption of cholesterol, states the Mayo Clinic, which recommends up to 10 g of soluble fiber a day. Your overall fiber intake should be 25 g (and 38 g for guys). Fatty fish (omega-3s), nuts (polyunsaturated fatty acids) and orange juice (fortified with sterols/stanols) stonewall absorption as well. Just adding 2 oz. of nuts a day, 2 g of stanols a day and two servings of fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel or albacore tuna) a week can drop your cholesterol level significantly, the Harvard Medical School reports. And, of course, always have fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains on hand. All it takes is some menu planning to incorporate these foods into your diet.
Yes, You Must Exercise, Too
Don’t stop at diet alone. For the most cholesterol-lowering benefits, add exercise to your daily routine– ideally 30 to 60 minutes–and maintain a healthy weight. These things done together not only lower cholesterol but give you the energy you need to keep up with the kids.
Take a Pill
If all else fails, medication may be an option, with statins among the most prescribed for lowering cholesterol, the Mayo Clinic says. A niacin supplement could help increase your high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or good cholesterol) and lower your LDL. Because this B vitamin can raise your HDL up to 35 percent, the Mayo Clinic calls it “the most effective drug available for raising HDL cholesterol.” If you don’t like to eat fish, a fish oil supplement is beneficial. As always, check with your doctor before using a supplement.