TMH Living Well: You’ve got high cholesterol, now what? | CraigDailyPress.com

TMH Living Well: You’ve got high cholesterol, now what?

The Memorial Hospital

Dr. Gerald Myers

At your last check-up your doctor told you your cholesterol was high. What to do? Here are three ways to lower your cholesterol, starting today. It's Valentine's Day and American Heart Month, so it's a great time to commit to a new heart healthy habit.

1. Know your risk

Cholesterol acts as a transporter for fats by carrying them through your arteries and helping them build up as plaque. Plaque that lines your arteries constricts the flow of blood to your heart and throughout your body, making your heart work harder. When the blood flow becomes extremely constricted, a heart attack can occur.

"Cholesterol plays a major role in heart disease, especially coronary artery disease (CAD)," said Dr. Gerald Myers, cardiologist with The Memorial Hospital.

Maybe high cholesterol is the only risk factor you have for heart disease, or maybe it's one of several. Discover what your overall risk level is. If it's moderate or low you might be able to lower your cholesterol with changes in your lifestyle habits. If it's high, you'll likely need medication.

"Now that we have the CAD risk calculator we can design intense or moderate treatment regimens to significantly lower those cholesterol numbers," Myers said.

Visit with your doctor or cardiologist about getting a CAD risk assessment along with other screening tests for heart disease. You can also explore your own assessment on the American Heart Association's website, http://www.heart.org.

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2. Get active

Exercise lowers your bad, LDL, cholesterol and raises your good, HDL, cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can significantly lower your cholesterol. If you weigh 200 pounds that computes to losing 10 to 20 pounds.

"I recommend an aerobic workout that generates a heart rate at 85 percent of your predicted maximum heart rate for 35 to 40 minutes three or four times a week, with some weight training to balance things out," Myers said.

If that seems daunting at first, work up to it. Figure a way to move your body throughout the day, whether that's a brisk walk during your lunch break, popping in an exercise CD after work or doing a routine of jumping jacks and push-ups every morning. Many experts believe that several brief exercise sessions during the day add up to the same health benefits as one long work out. Getting your heart rate up and your breathing going is important for cardiovascular health.

3. Adopt a few new healthy eating habits

Maybe when you are tired you gravitate toward a burger and fries for lunch or a few lattes in the morning. While these choices may temporarily rev you up, the negative effects on your health are not worth it. Vow to exchange a few bad habits for good ones that lower your cholesterol.

For starters, eat less meat. If you consume meat seven days a week, try reducing that to three or four. You may love a good steak or brat, but make them special occasion foods rather than a weekly habit. Also, reduce the serving size of the meat you eat to 4 ounces or less, making sure it is lean meat such as chicken breast or turkey. Better yet, replace meat with fish or vegetables. How you cook matters as well — swap deep-fried and breaded with broiled, grilled or baked.

"Minimize the amount of meat you eat, since meat is often high in fat and it takes more energy than other foods to digest and metabolize," Myers said.

Another simple diet change is eliminating trans fats. The Mayo Clinic calls trans fats a "double whammy" for cholesterol since they are known to raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. To cut out trans fats, you need to check labels. Look for "partially-hydrogenated" oils — cheap oil that food manufacturers use to lengthen the shelf life of their products. As you become more aware, you'll notice that trans fats most often exist in packaged foods or fast foods — fried foods, baked goods like donuts and muffins, peanut butter and margarine. Trans fats have made a major contribution to the current epidemic of obesity in the United States.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Take action to decrease your odds by getting your cholesterol under control.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig – improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

TMH Cardiology Clinic

Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. most Tuesdays and Wednesdays, including March 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18 and 31

785 Russell Street

To schedule an appointment, call 970-826-2400.

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