A healthy diet is often associated with a healthier heart. And while it’s true that your diet is an important element of heart health, it can be disheartening and confusing to follow a healthy eating regimen only to find yourself dealing with high cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by your liver and obtained through certain foods. It’s essential for your body, but too much can increase your risk of heart problems.
At NJ Cardiovascular Institute, Kunal Patel, MD, and our team are here to help you understand the links between your diet and cholesterol levels. We’ll explore the risk factors associated with high cholesterol and discuss treatment options to help you manage the condition effectively — no matter what you’re eating.
Cholesterol is a substance that your body uses to make certain hormones, synthesize vitamin D, and construct cell membranes. You need some cholesterol for optimal health, but high cholesterol is a risk factor for a number of common heart conditions.
Lipoproteins in your blood transport cholesterol through your bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) as "good" cholesterol.
If you have high LDL levels, cholesterol may build up inside the walls of your arteries. The buildup makes your arteries narrower, which forces your heart to work harder when it pumps blood throughout your body.
Diet isn’t the only factor affecting your cholesterol levels
Your diet plays a crucial role in cholesterol management. For example, eating a lot of sugary, processed foods may have detrimental effects on triglyceride levels and heart health.
Certain foods, like processed meats, baked goods, and fried foods are high in saturated fats and trans fats. If you eat a lot of these foods, your blood cholesterol levels may get too high. Healthier foods that contain saturated fats include meat and dairy from grass-fed cows.
On the other hand, some foods are linked to lower blood cholesterol. Whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits may help keep LDL levels in check — but even if you eat a healthy diet, it’s still possible to have high cholesterol.
There are other factors that contribute to high cholesterol levels, like:
Having a family history of high cholesterol can significantly increase your risk of high cholesterol levels, even despite your efforts to eat healthy.
Your age and gender
Your cholesterol levels tend to increase with age. Men are generally at higher risk than premenopausal women, but after menopause, women's risk catches up due to hormonal changes.
Being overweight or obese may contribute to increasing your cholesterol levels. Excess weight can disrupt the balance of fats in your body and affect your LDL cholesterol, regardless of your diet.
Living a sedentary lifestyle
Lack of physical activity can affect the way your body metabolizes fats, leading to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels.
Smoking damages your blood vessels and reduces HDL cholesterol levels, making smokers more susceptible to high LDL cholesterol.
Your high cholesterol management options
If you have high cholesterol despite a healthy lifestyle, it’s essential to consult a health care professional for personalized guidance. Dr. Patel and our team specialize in diagnosing and treating high cholesterol, and we work with you to develop a plan to keep your cholesterol in check.
We start by evaluating your lifestyle. Regular exercise can have a positive impact on cholesterol levels by increasing your HDL cholesterol and improving your overall cardiovascular health. And even if you already eat healthy, there might be room for improvement.
Focus on consuming heart-healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Cut out trans fats completely and limit your intake of refined carbohydrates like white bread, cookies, and chips.
If excess weight is a contributing factor, losing weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular physical activity can help lower your cholesterol levels. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best ways to improve cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Depending on the severity of your cholesterol levels and associated risks, we may prescribe medications like statins to help lower your LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Finally, it’s crucial to regularly monitor your cholesterol levels. We use blood tests to track how effective your treatment is and make any necessary adjustments.
High cholesterol levels can be perplexing — especially when you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle. By understanding the contributing factors and taking proactive measures, you can reduce your cholesterol levels and improve your overall well-being, and we’re here to help.
Schedule a consultation at one of our offices Elizabeth, Lakewood, Paramus, or Secaucus, New Jersey or send us a message online to learn more.