Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 |
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On my last “Walk &Talk,” Sally Sprinter asked me a question about improving her cholesterol levels.
Hopefully, my contrarian comments will be just what the doctor ordered for all of you.
Let’s start with the good news: cholesterol is incredible, an essential building block for life. The liver produces as much as we need, for cell membranes, reproductive hormones, vitamin D, bile acids and aiding digestion.
However, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Excess cholesterol likes to accumulate in our arteries, leading to atherosclerotic narrowing and stiffening, and increasing the risk of heart disease. Nearly one-third of our country has unfavorable levels or takes cholesterol-lowering medications. Genetics play a role, but lifestyle choices are crucial because they’re within our control.
Let’s examine the top 10 most popular factors negatively affecting cholesterol. To help maintain clean and clear blood vessels, it’s best to go against the flow. Observe the masses and do the opposite.
Saturated scarfing: Contrary to prevailing advice, most people dive into saturated fats headfirst, with mouths open, hoping that fatty animal products aren’t the villains that they’re made out to be. Don’t do it. Moderation is a great start. And, to finish the race at a healthier pace, less is more.
Stereospecific mouthful: Though a staple in most diets, highly processed foods often have trans-fatty acids that are held together with stereospecific-stereochemical bonds which significantly raise bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins) and lower good cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins). Read labels, and avoid words like fried, trans-fat, shortening, hydrogenated, and partially-hydrogenated oils.
Uber-rich fare: Organ meats, shellfish, high-fat dairy products, and fatty steaks are rich in cholesterol. From fast food to caviar, a price will be paid for consumption in any amount. Eggs can be healthy, but lay off lots of yolks. Your body produces copious cholesterol on its own; it’s not a traditional nutrient like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Eat more plants and fewer animals.
Simple sweetness: Did you know that sweetening your diet with tasty simple sugars has a huge impact on body fat and blood fats. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance, which may contribute to higher bad cholesterol (LDL), lower good cholesterol (HDL), and higher fatty triglycerides (also bad).
Reverse sesserts: I removed sugary desserts, and now I’m reversing them. Spell desserts backward and you get stressed. A silent enemy of heart health, unceasing stress is a popular plight. Stress hormones, like cortisol, can cause the liver to produce more cholesterol as part of our fight-or-flight response, contributing to inflammation, high blood pressure, and even high cholesterol. Take a bath. Take a chill.
Sedentary standstill: Newton was right, “an object at rest tends to stay at rest.” Many bodies embody stagnation, both inside and out. Your external muscles are sedentary. Your internal muscles are at a standstill. It’s time to get things moving again. Regular physical activity boosts HDL (good) cholesterol. Boosting fiber intake activates physical regularity, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Synergistic smoking: Smoking is a triple threat: it raises bad cholesterol levels (LDL), lowers good cholesterol levels (HDL) and also damages the linings of your arteries, creating a welcome mat for cholesterol buildup and blood-blocking plaques. When obesity joins this harmful synergy, the risk of heart disease skyrockets exponentially.
Genetic geriatrics: You can’t pick your family tree; how do you like them apples? Another uncontrollable event is aging, which brings a natural rise in cholesterol. Nonetheless, your lifestyle is your decision. Celebrate each birthday as an opportunity to make all of the best choices to become physiologically younger, year after year.
Swallowing pride: Choosing to avoid practitioners or prescriptions because of treatment trepidation or an overconfident self-diagnosis can land you in a heap of hurt. Talk to your doctor, swallow your pride, and, if need be, your physician-prescribed statins (albeit even if temporarily), as you wait for all of your other healthy habits to take effect.
Nutrition neglect: Are you pigging out more than working out? A heart-healthy diet increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol and triglycerides, reducing the risk of heart disease. Stuff yourself with the best stuff and there’s no room for the worst. With fresh fruits and veggies at the helm, you can also eat boatloads of salmon, sardines, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, avocado, olive oil, oatmeal, barley, beans, lentils, chickpeas and berries.
You know what to do: observe the masses and do the opposite!
Doug Jones earned his Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Maryland and has served professionals and personalities as a concierge fitness trainer for decades. As a resident of Kaua‘i and Connecticut, he has helped millions of people learn the secrets of fitness and fat loss, both online and in person. To submit your questions, or for more information, call (808) 652-6453 or visit www.DougJonesFitness.com.
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