Expert advice on how to lower and manage your cholesterol

Sunrise Senior Living  |  September 26, 2016
Sunrise Nutrionist Caitlin Rogers shared information about understanding cholesterol levels and how to manage them.
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Sunrise Nutritionist Caitlin Rogers shared information about understanding cholesterol levels and how to manage them.

September is National Cholesterol Education Month. It's an opportunity to raise awareness about the role cholesterol plays and how to lower your levels and prevent heart disease.

Caitlin Rogers, director of dining and nutrition services at Sunrise, recently shared her expertise on achieving and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, over 71 million adults live with high cholesterol, but only a third of those people have the issue under control. This month, Rogers urges taking the time to learn more about cholesterol and getting your levels screened to ensure your overall health.

What exactly is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs to thrive. However, there are two different types, and too much bad (LDL) cholesterol will build up on the walls of your arteries and create blockages. This can ultimately lead to heart disease, heart attack or stroke. So what defines good (HDL) cholesterol?

"Good cholesterol actually removes LDL cholesterol from the body, carrying it back to the liver where it is processed and eliminated," said Rogers, a certified dietary manager and former executive chef.

Ultimately, the goal is for older adults to maintain high enough cholesterol levels to remove the LDL and reduce their risk of experiencing conditions caused by clogged arteries.

What are the signs any symptoms?
Unfortunately, there are no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol. That means you need to be proactive about your health and get your blood tested.

"Make sure to have your blood work done during regular checkups, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease," advises Rogers.

How can you lower your bad cholesterol?
Thankfully, lowering and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is simple. For starters, Harvard Health Publications suggests adding more fruits and vegetables to your everyday diet. Then, switch out the trans and saturated fats for polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. That means incorporating more olive oil, nuts and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

"Foods high in soluble fiber like oatmeal and apples can also help reduce LDL cholesterol levels," suggests Rogers.

Does that mean you should eliminate your favorite foods from your diet completely? Not necessarily. Just remember: A healthy lifestyle is all about balance.

"There's room for just about anything in a healthy diet, as long as good choices make up the majority of the diet plan," Rogers said. "Make healthy fats, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts and legumes 95 percent of your food choices.  Save the remaining 5 percent for favorite treats."

Aside from healthy food choices, dropping bad habits, such as smoking, and picking up healthier ones, such as regular exercise, can also help prevent high cholesterol.

What can you do now?
During the month of September, make it a point to make these lifestyle adjustments and visit the doctor for a cholesterol level screening. Beyond National Cholesterol Education Month, treat your body well and do your best to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

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