September is Cholesterol Month, a perfect time to raise awareness about cholesterol, lifestyle risk factors associated with cholesterol, and ways to reduce the "bad" cholesterol numbers. Here are three key facts about cholesterol that everyone should know...
Cholesterol Fact #1: Your Body Makes All of the Cholesterol that it Needs
Your body actually does need a little cholesterol in order to create cell membranes and process food. However, your body also produces all the cholesterol that it needs to do these things. The cholesterol you consume from animal products like eggs and dairy is all extra.
Cholesterol Fact #2: Your Lifestyle Has an Impact on Your Cholesterol Levels
Your lifestyle and your health go hand in hand. If you are overweight and eat a diet that isn't healthful, then your risk of high "bad" cholesterol and low "good" cholesterol numbers goes up. Ditto for smokers and sedentary people.
Choose health! Even making small improvements to your lifestyle could lower your cholesterol risk.
Cholesterol Fact #3: You CAN Reduce Your Cholesterol-Related Health Risks
Yes, age and family history are factors in your cholesterol risk levels, but they are not the only factors. If you are overweight, take steps to start losing weight. If your diet is poor, start making basic changes. For example, replace one unhealthful snack (like cookies or chips) with a snack that contains mostly fruits and vegetables. Try to do this each day until it becomes a habit.
If you eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes like beans and lentils, you will be taking a high-fiber approach that is low in calorie density. Why bother? Because this change will help you manage your weight while improving your cholesterol levels.
If you keep saturated fats at less than 7% of what you eat each day and consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol daily, you will be taking further steps to reduce your risk.
It's wise to gradually increase your physical activity levels too, but be sure to talk with your doctor first, especially if you have been sedentary for a while.
Want to learn more about cholesterol? Check out these handy resources, or visit the Nutrition Education Store!
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.