September: National Cholesterol Education Month
September is National Cholesterol Education Month, sponsored by the American Heart Association. It is an effort by top heart specialists to provide sound information regarding diet to lower cholesterol levels to recommended levels.
There are two primary types of cholesterol: the LDL, or bad cholesterol, is the kind that clogs arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes. The HDL, or good cholesterol, reduces heart disease risk – the more the better. The American Heart Association suggests getting cholesterol initially checked at age 20, and then every four to six years or as recommended by your doctor.
There are four lifestyle ways to lower blood cholesterol levels:
- Healthy foods
- Regular exercise
- No smoking
- Lean weight
Keeping saturated fats lower can reduce cholesterols. It is suggested that five percent of total calories come from saturated fats. For a 2,000 calorie diet that is only 11 grams of saturated fat per day. Saturated fat sources include fatty red meats, chicken skin, dairy fats, as well as coconut and palm oils.
Trans fats are also harmful. They come from partially hydrogenated fats and are produced by the food industry when vegetable oils are turned into solid fats. There are fewer and fewer products with these fats added, and fortunately you can just check the label - they have to be listed on the Nutrition Facts label. They can be found in commercial bakery products such as doughnuts and pastries, as well as some brands of stick margarine.
Healthy fats include olive, grapeseed, canola and sunflower oils; nut butters and nuts like almonds, peanuts, pecans and walnuts; fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines, and avocados.
Be sure to plan meals around colorful fruits and vegetables and whole-grains. The American Heart Association website at www.heart.org is a wealth of information for ways to keep the heart in tip top shape, menu planning ideas and heart healthy recipes.
Recipes to try:
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.