Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in your blood, and when it builds up in the walls of your arteries, it can clog them, slowing down and even blocking the supply of blood to the heart. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage caused by ‘bad’ cholesterol. (LDL) HDL cholesterol, on the other hand is considered “good” since it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is important for people of all ages and even for people with or without heart disease, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has issued new guidelines recommending that limits on dietary cholesterol be removed from the upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, a recent report cites experts as saying that the new view does not reverse conventional warnings about cholesterol levels linked to heart disease. Others warn that people with health conditions such as diabetes should stay away from foods rich in cholesterol. Here are some foods that can help maintain a healthy cholesterol level:
- High-fiber foods: Soluble fiber plays a key role in lowering bad cholesterol. Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods like kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes are recommended for cholesterol management.
- Fish and omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids can improve your total cholesterol and triglycerides, and raise your good cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week.
- Nuts: Nuts such as walnuts and almonds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, reducing blood cholesterol and keeping the blood vessels healthy. A handful of nuts a day can make a positive change in your cholesterol level and overall health.
- Olive oil: A potent mix of antioxidants makes this olive oil, specifically extra-virgin olive oil, a good option to lower the LDL while leaving HDL untouched.
- Plant sterols: Foods with added plant sterols or stanols can help block the absorption of bad cholesterol. Such foods include cholesterol-lowering margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks that can even reduce LDL by more than 10 percent.
Making lifestyle changes is also important to maintain your cholesterol level. Regular physical activity of at least 30 minutes a day is recommended for everyone as it can help raise HDL and lower LDL, and is especially important for those who are overweight. In fact, weight management is also important for those with a large weight measurement and risk factors like diabetes. It’s also important to avoid excessive smoking or drinking. One of the latest recommendations to prevent formation of arterial blocks is to get enough vitamin D.