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Caution against High Cholesterol

Caution against High Cholesterol

In recognition of February as American Heart Month, Mahaska Health Partnership encourages you to know your cholesterol.

“Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to heart disease and stroke,” MHP Registered Dietitian Lea Rice said. “Half of American adults have cholesterol levels that are too high.”

The danger associated with high cholesterol is when you have too much LDL (low density lipoprotein). “The LDL is often called the bad cholesterol,” Rice explained. “When you have too much, it can join with fats and other substances to build up in the inner wall of your arteries. The arteries can become clogged and narrow, reducing blood flow.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), if a blood clot forms and blocks an artery, a heart attack can occur. If a blood clot blocks an artery leading to the brain, a stroke results. Rice stressed there are many lifestyle changes you can make to reduce bad cholesterol. “Limiting foods high in fat can significantly reduce a person’s chances of developing too much LDL.”

Foods to limit include whole milk, cream and ice cream; butter, egg yolk, cheese and foods made with them; organ meats such as liver, sweetbreads, kidney and brains; high-fat processed meats such as sausage, bologna, salami and hot dogs. Rice said there are different kinds of fats in the food we eat and each has a different affect on cholesterol.

  • Saturated fat – Raises blood cholesterol and LDL levels. Avoid animal fats such as lard and meat fat. In addition, avoid some plant fats such as coconut, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
  • Trans fat – Raises blood cholesterol and is used in commercial baked goods and for cooking in some restaurants and fast-food chains.
  • Polyunsaturated fats – Tend to lower blood cholesterol when consumed in moderation and used to replace saturated and trans fat, however, may also lower HDL (good cholesterol). These are found in vegetable and fish oils.
  • Monounsaturated fats – Tend to lower blood cholesterol as part of a low-saturated fat diet and do not decrease HDL (good cholesterol). These are found in olive, canola, peanut, sun flower and safflower oils.

There are still a lot of delicious food choices for a person trying to maintain a low-fat diet to reduce cholesterol,” Rice said. “Some low-fat food recommendations include: eating a variety of fruits and vegetables; grain products such as bread, cereal, rice and pasta; fat-free and low-fat milk products; lean meats and poultry without skin; beans and peas; and nuts and seeds in limited amounts.”

Rice mentioned another way to reduce fat in your diet is to change the way food is cooked. The AHA recommends draining off fat by using a rack to broil or bake; using wine, fruit juice or marinade instead of basting with drippings; and broiling or grilling instead of pan-frying.

The AHA also suggests cutting off visible fat from meat before cooking and removing the skin from poultry; using a vegetable spray to brown or sauté foods; serving smaller portions of high-fat foods and larger portions of lower-fat dishes; making recipes or egg dishes with egg whites or substitute; and using low-fat cheese in place of regular cheese.

“Having your cholesterol checked is the first step in maintaining a healthy LDL,” Rice said. MHP will be offering community cholesterol screenings on Tuesday, Feb. 15 and Wednesday, Feb. 16 from 6:30 to 9 a.m. on their campus in Oskaloosa. For an appointment, call 641-672-3100.