MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–According to the American Heart Association, one out of every three adult Americans — an estimated 105 million people — have border-line high (200-239 mg/dl) or too high (240 mg/dl and above) blood cholesterol levels.
That’s one out of every three members of your church, co-workers, friends or family members. And, the harsh reality is it’s probably you and you don’t even know it.
High cholesterol is the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. As believers we are given the responsibility to properly care for the body God has given us to live and minister through. Knowing your cholesterol level and taking the steps to properly manage it are steps of physical stewardship that honor God.
Here are a few facts about cholesterol: Your body makes the waxy substance in your liver, and it is used to make cell membranes, produce hormones and insulate nerves. God designed your body to produce the right amount of good cholesterol that is beneficial to your health.
We run into problems when we eat foods that contain high levels of cholesterol. These foods include animal products such as meats, poultry, fish and dairy products, highly processed foods and foods cooked with or fried in animal fat. Excess cholesterol produces plaque that is stored in the artery walls throughout your body. As the build-up increases, it hardens and decreases the flow of blood to your heart or brain. When an artery is completely blocked and blood flow is stopped, the result is a heart attack or stroke.
Preventing and managing high cholesterol is vital to staying healthy and strong throughout your life. Consider implementing the following recommendations to increase your awareness and properly care for your body:
1. Have your cholesterol level checked annually. A blood test with a complete lipid profile will reveal your total cholesterol and the breakdown of good (high density lipoproteins or HDLs), bad (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs), and very bad cholesterol (very low-density lipoproteins or VLDLs). High total cholesterol greatly increases your risk for developing heart disease or having a stroke.
2. Educate yourself on health habits to manage or lower your cholesterol level. The American Heart Association is an excellent resource. Visit their website at www.americanheart.org for more information. Also ask your doctor for recommendations or referrals to other health professionals that could offer assistance.
3. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Remember, all meat contains cholesterol. Limit your portions of lean meat to four ounces per day. Use the information on food labels to keep your cholesterol intake low. The following foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Minimize these in your eating plan:
— Whole milk, cream and ice cream. Try nonfat milk and low-fat frozen yogurt instead.
— Butter, egg yolks and foods that include them, such as cakes and pies. — Bakery goods made with egg yolks and saturated fats.
— Cheeses and foods that include them. Try low-fat cheeses or string cheese instead.
— Organ meats such as liver, kidney and brain.
— Saturated oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
— High-fat processed meats such as sausage, bologna, salami and hot dogs.
— Fatty red meats.
— Duck and goose meat.
— Chicken and turkey with the skin on.
— Solid fats like shortening, stick margarine and lard.
— Fried foods such as fried chicken, french fries and potato chips.
4. Enjoy a wide variety of healthful foods that are low in saturated fat and are cholesterol free.
— Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
— Eat six or more servings of cereals, breads, pasta and other whole-grain products.
— Eat fish, poultry without skin and leaner cuts of meat.
— Eat nonfat or 1 percent milk dairy products.
5. Maintain a healthy weight. While weight is not an automatic indicator of high cholesterol, managing your weight with a healthful eating plan and regular exercise will greatly decrease your risk of high cholesterol.
6. Exercise at least 30-60 minutes on most days of the week. Exercise has been proven to increase the good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels.
7. If medication is necessary to manage your cholesterol levels, take it as prescribed by your doctor. Medication along with healthy lifestyle changes will work together to decrease your risk for heart disease and stroke. Talk to your doctor about all the options available to you.
“Therefore, honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20
Branda Polk is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer and wellness coach in Memphis, Tenn.