High cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia, is a condition characterized by excessive levels of fats, or lipids, in the blood. It is a common disease in the United States with over three-million new diagnoses recorded per year. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends all adults 20-years and older be screened for hyperlipidemia at least every five-years. Screening is done with a blood test called a fasting (nothing to eat 8 to 12 hours prior to blood draw) lipid panel. A normal test is total cholesterol <200, LDL (“bad” cholesterol) <160, HDL (“good” cholesterol) >40, and triglycerides <150.
Twelve ways to manage high cholesterol include…
High cholesterol has the potential to accelerate atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries caused by deposition of fats and cholesterol. A diet with reduced intake of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol is recommended for individuals with hyperlipidemia. This type of diet is often referred to as a “Mediterranean diet.” Olive oil is the staple fat of this diet. A diet of varied, colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains is also recommended for hyperlipidemia.
Individuals with hyperlipidemia should also increase their intake of fiber, which has the potential to decrease cholesterol levels by as much as 10-percent. Fish, nuts, and beans and other legumes should also be included in the diet. Reduced intake of red meat, processed meats, and fried foods is recommended. Dairy products should be low fat or fat free. For example, skim milk is a better choice than whole milk.