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How to beat cholesterol

Advice from Dr. Zhukova
Reducing your cholesterol level through diet (L. Tarasov, Bykhov)

Cholesterol is one of the main causes of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which kills millions annually. In fact, the human body contains a great deal of cholesterol, which is essential to all cell membranes. Cholesterol exists in two forms: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is ‘bad’, since it hardens the arteries; while high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is ‘good’, as it protects vascular walls.

In general, we are advised to have a cholesterol level of less than 5 millimoles/litre (less than 4.5 millimoles/litre for those suffering from cardiovascular diseases or diabetes). High concentrations of cholesterol in the blood can promote the hardening of artery walls, placing us at risk of serious cardiovascular diseases, such as stenocardia (ischemic heart disease) and myocardial infarction, cerebral stroke and restricted blood supply to the lower extremities.

To maintain a healthy body, keep your consumption of cholesterol to within 300 mg a day; meanwhile, those with hypercholesterolemia and cardiovascular diseases should consume no more than 200 mg a day. However, you need a holistic approach to lower cholesterol levels. Consult your doctor to choose the right path for your age, lifestyle and current health situation.

General recommendations are as follows:

  •  Observe a healthy diet (see diet recommendations below);
  •  Stay within a healthy weight;
  •  Increase your physical activity;
  •  Don’t smoke;
  •  Take your prescribed medications.
Basic recommendations to reduce your blood cholesterol level via your diet:

  • Consume more polyunsaturated fats and fewer saturated fats; eat less beef, pork and mutton, choosing lower-fat meat, such as chicken (remove skin and fat before cooking).
  •  Swap whole milk for skimmed and replace animal fats (butter, lard and dairy products) with vegetable oils (such as sunflower, olive or corn).
  •  Eat more oily fish (at least two portions weekly): the polyunsaturated fats reduce cholesterol levels. Try salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines or lake trout.
  •  Include sea kale in your diet; its considerable quantities of iodine support lipid exchange, helping your body remove blood cholesterol.
  •  Eat more water-soluble fibre, as found in apples, dried beans, peas, kidney beans and rolled oats. Try some porridge and other whole grains and cereals: brown rice, buckwheat and dark bread.
  •  Eat at least 400g of fruit and vegetables daily (including legumes but excluding potatoes).
  •  Reduce your consumption of table salt to 5-6g a day and your alcohol consumption to no more than one glass of wine or one measure of spirits daily.
If advised to change your diet to reduce your cholesterol level, stay focused. Try not to ‘break’ your regime more than once every fortnight, to allow you to enjoy celebrations and gatherings where temptation cannot be resisted.

By Tatiana Zhukova
Doctor of higher category, M.D. Ph.D.
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