How to Be Heart-Healthy: Tips for Keeping Your Cholesterol in Check


Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States? In America, 2,200 people die of cardiovascular disease every day, an average of one dead every 39 seconds (Source: WebMD). Factors such as genes and gender play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease or stroke, but so does cholesterol. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to lower your cholesterol, which in turn will lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Here are 5 more tips to help you stay on track (this is part 2 of a 2-part series):

1. Avoid Fried Foods and Food Containing Hydrogenated Oils

Deep-fried foods, especially foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils should be eaten only sparingly, if at all. These foods include margarine, pastries, packaged cookies, crackers, potato chips and other snack foods. Other foods to give up include cheese and other dairy products, poultry skin (remove it before eating the meat), and red meat other than top round and edge of round. The GuidanceResources Online® website provides healthy eating tips—look under the “Lifestyles – Food & Beverage” section.

2. Reduce Your Stress Level

Fatigue, anger and distress can raise your body’s adrenaline levels, causing cholesterol to rise. Practice relaxation and stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises.

3. Work Out

Exercise increases the good HDL cholesterol, which helps prevent plaque from forming on the walls of the arteries. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, and more than two days a week muscle strengthening activities. The GuidanceResources Online® website has suggestions to get your exercise routine started or how to freshen up an existing routine—look under the “Wellness—Fitness & Nutrition” section.

4. Follow Your Doctor’s Orders

Talk with your doctor about your cholesterol levels and be sure you understand all instructions. Sometimes diet, exercise and stress reduction just aren’t enough to get cholesterol into the safe zone. In terms of medication, physicians prescribe statins, which are able to control an enzyme in the body that is responsible for the manufacture of lipids, also known as fats. This control process reduces the body’s production of cholesterol. If you doctor does prescribe medication, make sure you take it as directed—it may not work otherwise.

5. Stop Smoking

Smoking reduces HDL, the good cholesterol. It also damages your arteries and increases your risk for blood clots, which puts you at greater risk for plaque that can clog your arteries. The Fund provides a smoking cessation benefit through the Free & Clear Quit For Life® Program, which is provided at no cost to eligible members.