National Cholesterol Education Month

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Have you had your cholesterol levels checked recently? If not, September─National Cholesterol Education Month─provides a great opportunity to do so. If you find your numbers to be higher than optimal, you can then address the situation. Fortunately, there are many natural strategies that can help.

Did you know high blood cholesterol affects over 65 million Americans? It’s a serious condition that measurably increases your risk for heart disease. Becoming informed is crucial, since even dangerously high cholesterol does not present obvious symptoms. However, getting your levels in check reduces your risk of heart disease and slashes your odds of having a deadly heart attack.

How is high cholesterol harmful? When too much of this waxy substance in your blood accumulates in your artery walls, it hardens over time, causing your arteries to narrow. The more occluded the pathway becomes, the more blood flow to your heart is blocked, which can lead to a heart attack.

Fortunately, unless you have a strong genetic predisposition, lowering your cholesterol is easier than you think. How should you proceed? While cholesterol lowering drugs called statins are commonly prescribed, it makes sense to consider these simple, natural solutions first:

Modify your diet:

Simple changes go a long way, like replacing high-fat/processed meats with lean options, and trading whole fat dairy for non-fat versions and/or alternatives like soy, almond, or hemp milk. Whenever possible, swap “bad” (saturated) fats for “good” (unsaturated) fats.

Nix trans fats

Avoiding trans fats─which lurk in fried foods and all baked goods with a long shelf life─is a key tactic. When you see “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredient list, that means trans fats. Caution: if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat/serving, it can be labeled “trans fat-free.” That may seem minor, but it adds up.

Get fit:

Here’s another reason to trim excess pounds if needed: they can increase your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol level, as well as boost triglycerides (blood fats). Being sedentary compounds the problem, raising LDL and lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Walking a mere 30 minutes per day can help.

Get functional:

Functional foods like oats offer more than nutrients. Oats/oat bran are rich in soluble fiber, which naturally reduces cholesterol. Incorporate phytosterols too. These natural plant fats found in fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and nutritional supplements help by interfering with cholesterol absorption.

With a portfolio of natural solutions like these, you have your game plan set if cholesterol reduction is your goal. And here’s a bonus: every one of these tips will increase overall wellness too!

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