Managing Cholesterol Levels for Heart Health

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product label showing cholesterol levels

September is National Cholesterol Education Month. This is a great time to have your blood cholesterol checked and learn more about food and lifestyle choices that can help you lower your cholesterol or maintain already good levels.

What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is already found in our bodies. It is also found in many foods. Our bodies actually need cholesterol to function normally, however, the medical issue occurs when too much cholesterol builds up in our arteries. This causes our arteries to narrow and puts us at risk for heart disease and stroke.

Since high cholesterol doesn’t have any symptoms, we have to have the doctor perform a blood test to check it. In Union County, this service is also provided to limited resource neighborhoods by Community Health Nurses.

In some cases, medications are required to improve high cholesterol. Lifestyle changes are also essential to controlling cholesterol. Some lifestyle changes include incorporating more exercise into your daily routine and healthier cooking methods. Here are some tips:

  • Trim all of the visible fat from meats before cooking.
  • Select lean or extra lean ground beef.
  • Buy “choice” or “select” grades of beef rather than prime.
  • Broil or bake rather than pan-frying. Drain off the fat.
  • Cook meats and stews ahead of time and refrigerate, then remove hardened fat from the top.
  • Limit processed meats, such as bologna, hot dogs, and sausage.
  • Steam vegetables
  • Do not add “fatback” pork meat or other heavy fats to vegetables to season or cook.
  • Eat more fish. Fish can be fatty or lean but it is still low in saturated fats. Oily fish, such as, salmon and trout are high in Omega- 3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health.