By Adebukola Aluko

This is the concluding part of our discussion on cholesterol levels in the body, Harmful or beneficial? ( for Part 1, click here).

Considering the factors responsible for a high lipid level, it is however important to sit down and think of what and what to do to address the problem.

Before going further, the routine check is key to keeping you abreast of your status, be it high, low, or even normal lipid profile.

Having done this, it is necessary to go for a cholesterol level check. Your healthcare provider may order a cholesterol test as part of a routine examination. You may also have a cholesterol test if you have a family history of heart disease or if your risk for heart problems is high because of: High blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, smoking, excess weight or obesity, lack of physical activity, a diet high in saturated fat and your age may also be a factor because your risk for heart disease increases as you get older.

Too much LDL cholesterol in your blood increases your risk for coronary artery disease and other heart diseases. Increased LDL levels can cause the buildup of a sticky substance called plaque in your arteries. Over time, plaque can narrow your arteries or fully block them, and when this happens, parts of your body do not get enough blood:

  • If the blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause a heart attack.
  • If the blood flow to the brain is blocked, it can cause a stroke.
  • If the blood flow to the arms or legs is blocked, it can cause peripheral artery disease.
  • LDL levels. Also known as the “bad” cholesterol, LDL is the main source of blockages in the arteries.
  • HDL levels. Considered the “good” cholesterol, HDL helps get rid of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
  • Total cholesterol. The combined amount of LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol in your blood.

What is a Cholesterol Test?

A cholesterol test is also called a Lipid profile or Lipid panel, it is a blood test that measures the amount of cholesterol and certain fats in your blood, like we earlier said that Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in your blood, and every cell of your body. You need some cholesterol to keep your cells and organs healthy.

A cholesterol test gives you important information about your risk of developing heart disease. If your test shows you have high cholesterol, you can take steps to lower it. This may decrease your risk of developing heart problems in the future.

Preparation Before The Test

You may need to fast (not eat or drink) for 9 to 12 hours before your blood cholesterol test. That is why the tests are often done in the morning.

A healthcare professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle.

Now, after conducting the test, the result will determine how you will modify your lifestyle changes and what medication to use and, in a situation, where the Cholesterol levels are high, what do you do?

Lifestyle changes such as exercising and eating a healthy diet are the first line of defense against high cholesterol. But, if you’ve made these important lifestyle changes and your cholesterol levels remain high, your doctor might recommend medication.

The choice of medication or combination of medications depends on various factors including your personal risk factors, your age, your health, and possible drug side effects.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Lifestyle changes are essential to improve your cholesterol levels.

Medications can also help improve your cholesterol. But if you had rather first make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol, try these lifestyles.

1. Eat heart-healthy foods

A few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health:

  • Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol.
  • Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarine and store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels. The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils by Jan. 1, 2021.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart-healthy benefits, including reducing blood pressure. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
  • Increase soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears.
  • Add whey protein. Whey protein, which is found in dairy products may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lower both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure.

2. Regular Exercise on most days of the week and increase your physical activity

Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.

Work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.

Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight. Consider: –

  • Taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour
  • Riding your bike to work

3. Quit smoking

Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level. The benefits occur quickly:

  • Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike.
  • Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve.
  • Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.

4. Lose weight

Look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office. Take walks during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities such as cooking or doing yard work.

5. Drink Alcohol only in moderation

Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes.

Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes are not enough to lower cholesterol levels. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed while continuing your lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you keep your medication dose low.

Eat right, eat healthily, and remember “You are what you eat”.

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