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Why May Cholesterol Be a Problem?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is present in the bloodstream and cells. It is actually necessary for well-being, helping to produce cell membranes, hormones, and playing a role in normal bodily functioning. In excess however, LDL cholesterol can cause problems (HDL cholesterol, which is sometimes called good cholesterol, actually helps keep cholesterol from forming along artery walls). It can accumulate along the inner walls of arteries along with other waste in the blood, becoming a hard substance known as atherosclerotic plaque. This build-up can narrow and harden the arteries, lessening blood flow. If a blood clot forms and there is less and less room for blood flow and the arteries themselves are less flexible, it is possible that blood to the brain or heart becomes blocked, causing a stroke or heart attack.
Eating a diet to lower high cholesterol is not only important for people who have high LDL cholesterol levels, or who are at risk for heart disease, but for everyone. A well-balanced diet for heart health will contribute to not only lower cholesterol and reduced risk of heart disease, but also improved blood circulation and overall well-being. Also, as there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, taking measures to ensure your health is always important.
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Types of Foods That Are Beneficial
What foods are beneficial for lowering high cholesterol and why? Foods that are high in fiber are important for helping to remove cholesterol before it is absorbed into the bloodstream. High fiber foods include whole grains, such as oats, barley, brown rice and whole wheat products. Fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are all also good sources of fiber. As there are two different types of fiber that need to be included in the diet — insoluble and soluble fiber – make sure you are eating a variety of high-fiber foods.
Foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidant are also an important part of a healthy diet for normal blood cholesterol levels. Antioxidants can be used by the body to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant in the body, is so important for healthy blood vessels. Some of the B vitamins are essential for inhibiting the formation of homocysteine, which allows for cholesterol deposits around the heart muscle. Where can you find these invaluable nutrients? In fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds and grains. Eat several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day, and focus on variety.
Another important aspect of a cholesterol lowering diet is fat — unsaturated, unprocessed fatty acids. Slippery in nature, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids help to remove excess LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. These beneficial fats are found in nuts, avocados, olives, fatty fish and vegetable oils.
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Foods in Moderation
Just as important as what you consume is what you avoid. Foods that can contribute to high cholesterol levels include:
- Red meat
- Fried foods
- Fatty dairy foods
- Processed foods
You do not necessarily have to give up red meat (unless your doctor recommends this), but it is important to eat less animal products and more seafood and vegetable proteins.
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Diet and Heart Health
Make a diet to lower high cholesterol a priority in your life to maintain or improve the well-being of your cardiovascular system. Diet is such a powerful tool for not only staying well, but also for turning a potentially dangerous condition around. Enjoy the health benefits and variety of flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed grains and oils, and different protein sources. Not only will you lower your risk for heart disease and help lower blood cholesterol levels (if that wasn't reason enough), but you will support an optimally functioning body, increase energy levels and slow the physical effects of the aging process.
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American Heart Association <http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1502>
National Cholesterol Education Program <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/wyntk.htm>
Page, Linda. "Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone." Eleventh Edition (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
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