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Prevention of high cholesterol

It’s possible to eat your way to good health

Karen Miller | 4/18/2016, 2:02 p.m.
Many cases of high cholesterol can be prevented just by following a healthy lifestyle. If the cholesterol is too high ...
The chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the linings of arteries, which can promote the buildup of plaque. Thinkstock.com/iStock/weerapatkiatdumrong

In many cases high cholesterol can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. So powerful is healthy living that when first diagnosed with high cholesterol the first choice of treatment is often lifestyle change. When this recommendation is not as effective as desired in reducing cholesterol levels, medication — in conjunction with healthy lifestyles — is prescribed.

Smoking

Cigarette smoking might provide a “buzz” from that quick jolt of nicotine, but it wreaks havoc on your health. Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of death and illness in this country. Most people associate it with cancer, and rightfully so. Lung cancer is the most common cancer death in this country and cigarette smoking is linked to 80 percent of those deaths. But smoking does its fair share of damage to the cardiovascular system. More than 480,000 deaths a year are attributed to smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your blood cells and damage the structure and function of blood vessels making them fertile ground for atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque attributed largely to cholesterol. The American Heart Association has found that smoking lowers the level of the so-called good cholesterol in the blood and raises triglycerides, another type of lipid in the blood associated with heart disease.

Switching to smokeless tobacco doesn’t avert the problem. Smokeless tobacco actually puts more nicotine into the bloodstream than do cigarettes. Although it is chewed rather than inhaled studies suggests that it still raises blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and can increase your risk of having a heart attack.

It might be difficult to quit smoking, but the advantages are huge. The Mayo Clinic reports that quitting smoking can increase HDL by up to 10 percent.

Call 800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for information and help quitting.

BMI: Body Mass Index

Obesity is measured by the Body Mass Index, or BMI, a correlation of height and weight.

BMI = Weight in pounds/(Height in inches x Height in inches) x 703

BMI — Definition

18.5-24.9 — Healthy

25-29.9 — Overweight

30 or more — Obese

Waist Size — Desired Measurement

Men — Less than 40 inches

Women — Less than 35 inches

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Tips on prevention

Source: Mayo Clinic

Source: Mayo Clinic

Obesity

Correlating a few extra pounds to cholesterol seems a bit of a stretch. If that is true, that explains why high cholesterol is so common. According to the CDC, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese as well as 17 percent of children age 2 to 19.

In fact, body weight has a direct association with cardiovascular risk factors, including high cholesterol. This means that as weight increases, so does LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Yet, it does not take an excessive weight loss to reverse the direction of these numbers. In an article published by the Obesity Action Coalition the researcher found that losing just 5 to 10 percent of body weight can result in a five-point increase in HDL cholesterol and an average 40-point decrease in triglycerides. That means a 200-pound person can realize improved health by losing just 10 pounds.