Cholesterol is something everyone’s body creates naturally through the liver. You actually need some cholesterol to build cells and make vitamins and hormones. The problem with too much cholesterol occurs when we eat too much poultry, meats, dairy products, and other foods high in trans and saturated fats.
When your cholesterol levels are higher than they should be, it gets stuck to the walls of your arteries and prohibits blood flow. If a blood clot forms and get stuck in the built-up cholesterol or if the cholesterol builds up too much on its own, a heart attack or stroke can occur.
How do I know if my cholesterol is too high?
There are no symptoms that tell you your cholesterol is too high. The only way to know is to get a blood test with your primary care doctor.
It’s recommended to get a cholesterol test every 5 years starting at 9. Men aged 45 to 65 and women aged 55 to 65 should get a cholesterol test every 1-2 years. A cholesterol test is recommended annually for everyone over the age of 65.
What do I do if my cholesterol is too high?
Adjusting your diet is one of the main ways to control your cholesterol. Foods to eat that can help include:
- Oatmeal/oat bran
- High-fiber foods
- Fish with omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring)
- Nuts; especially almonds and walnuts
- Whey protein
- Foods and drinks with added plant sterols or stanols
- Cooking with olive oil
- And avoiding foods with saturated or trans fats.
Changes to your diet and regular exercise will work in lowering cholesterol for a lot of people, but it may not be enough for some people. If your high cholesterol is due to genetics you may need to talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your cholesterol.