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What Role Do Foods Play in High Cholesterol?

What Role Do Foods Play in High Cholesterol?

If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, you have good reason to be. More than 38% of adults in the United States have high cholesterol, putting them at risk for stroke and heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in America. 

Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol doesn’t come with any warning signs or noticeable symptoms until you have a heart attack or stroke. This makes it impossible to know if you’re at risk without taking a blood test to evaluate your cholesterol levels. 

If you’re in the Houston area, the providers at Integrative Primary Care in Katy, Texas, can check your cholesterol and help you get it under control if your numbers aren’t where they should be.

One of the most frequently asked questions our providers answer involves the role of diet in high cholesterol and whether food alone is responsible for the buildup of this waxy substance. Keep reading to learn about cholesterol and the role the foods you eat plays in your numbers.

Understanding cholesterol

Your liver makes cholesterol, a waxy substance, to help produce hormones, convert sunlight into vitamin D, and make bile, a substance that helps break down the foods you eat. You don’t need to worry about eating enough cholesterol, since your body makes the right amount to support its essential functions. 

There are different types of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Lipoproteins are special proteins that transport cholesterol to different cells in your body. 

You need healthy levels of both LDLs and HDLs to enjoy the best health possible. However, people sometimes call LDLs “bad cholesterol,” because having too many causes a buildup that narrows your arteries. HDLs, on the other hand, get nicknamed “good cholesterol,” because they remove excess LDLs from your system. 

The American Heart Association recommends all adults have their cholesterol checked every 4-6 years. Adults with certain risk factors for heart disease may need their cholesterol checked more frequently. Healthy levels of cholesterol include:

When your provider at Integrative Primary Care checks your cholesterol levels, they examine both types of cholesterol as well as your triglyceride levels, another type of fat that raises your risk of stroke and heart disease. 

Some people have a genetic predisposition that increases their body’s production of LDLs, raising their cholesterol levels. But for most people, lifestyle choices are the biggest factors affecting their cholesterol levels, including:

Fortunately, by changing your diet and other lifestyle factors, you can likely reduce your cholesterol levels and lower your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. 

How food affects your cholesterol levels

Like humans, animals also make cholesterol. This means when you eat foods derived from animals, such as dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood, you ingest dietary cholesterol. This can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. 

In addition, if you don’t eat enough fiber and plant foods, which raise your HDL (good) cholesterol levels to help transport LDLs to your liver for removal from your body, your “bad” cholesterol numbers can rise.

On the other hand, by eating a heart-healthy diet based on plant foods and eliminating processed foods and fatty foods from your diet, you can lower your LDLs and raise your HDLs. Foods that have been linked to improved cholesterol levels include the following:

The good news is that by eating a heart-healthy diet, you’ll have an easier time losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, and you’ll have more energy for exercise. 

Help managing your cholesterol

If your cholesterol levels aren’t where they should be, your Integrative Primary Care provider can help create a personalized treatment plan to help you manage your numbers. While each patient is unique, this plan often includes:

For patients with dangerously high cholesterol levels, our providers may recommend medications to quickly lower the levels.

To learn more about the link between food and cholesterol, or to get help managing high cholesterol, call 832-500-7585 or book an appointment online with Integrative Primary Care today.

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