Cholesterol: the ideal lifestyle for prevention
The importance of prevention
Hypercholesterolemia is an increase in blood cholesterol levels and is a risk factor for our body in terms of cardiovascular disease. Recent research reveals that in our country, there is an increase in cholesterol levels in both men and women.
An excess of LDL cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, can impair circulation and increase the risk of heart disease, such as heart attack and stroke. On the contrary, low HDL cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
Unfortunately, high cholesterol levels do not cause any particular symptoms, so many people are unaware of having high cholesterol levels. Therefore, try to keep your cholesterol levels under control, so as to prevent health issues.
Let’s see how we can protect the health of your heart through a healthy lifestyle.
Who is more at risk?
People at risk of heart disease should engage in behaviors that decrease this possibility. Among these we can distinguish modifiable risk factors:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol levels
- high quantity of triglycerides
- diagnosis of diabetes mellitus
from non-modifiable factors:
- age (the risk increases the older your get, especially in women)
- male sex
- family history of cardiovascular problems.
Tips for a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle allows us to protect our well-being, stay fit and keep cholesterol levels within the right limits.
The following are recommended:
- a healthy diet
- no smoking
- engaging in regular physical activity
Foods you should consume
A healthy diet can reduce the impact of cardiovascular disease by helping to control the main risk factors, including high cholesterol, but also high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Cholesterol is mainly present in foods rich in animal fats, like meat, butter, cold cuts, cheese, egg yolks and liver, while it is not present in plant-based foods, such as fruit and greens, and in grains.
Here are the actions to be carried out:
- Increase your consumption of vegetables and fruit, with at least 2-3 servings a day of both.
- consume foods rich in fiber, because they reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and contrast the increase in blood sugar (glycemia) after eating foods rich in carbohydrates. Grains (such as rice and pasta), especially whole grains, but also legumes, are a valid source of fiber. It is recommended that you consume at least 40-45 g of fiber per day, preferably from whole grain products.
- eat fish at least 1-2 times a week, because, thanks to the Omega-3 fatty acids and low cholesterol content, it’s good for your heart.
Foods to avoid
Foods particularly rich in animal fats are, for example; meat, butter, cold cuts, cheese, egg yolks and liver.
Follow these recommendations for a healthy diet:
- reduce saturated fats and replace them with mono and polyunsaturated fats (olive oil, blue fish, salmon, dried fruit)
- reduce hydrogenated fats (found in industrially produced foods, such as margarine)
- reduce the amount of salt in food to less than 5 g per day
- avoid the consumption of sugary products and soft drinks to help maintain an optimal body weight
- limit alcohol consumption, with a maximum of 2 glasses per day.
Avoiding obesity and overweight, by maintaining the ideal body weight through adequate nutrition, helps us stay healthy. Our body mass index (BMI) should always remain within the range of 20-25 kg / m2. The waist size is another parameter to keep under control, it must be less than 94 cm for men and less than 80 cm for women.
Smoking causes many problems and is responsible for half of avoidable deaths, mainly due to cardiovascular issues, so much so that the 10-year risk of heart disease is about double for those who smoke.
Smoking acts directly on cholesterol: it reduces HDL values, especially in women, and increases LDL levels. It is therefore strongly recommended to quit smoking as soon as possible.
Playing sports regularly protects against cardiovascular disease, both in healthy people and in people at risk of coronary heart disease or heart patients.
Both men and women of all ages benefit from physical activity.
European guidelines for cardiovascular health recommend:
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week (half an hour for 5 days a week)
- or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity per week (a quarter of an hour for 5 days a week)
- alternatively, a combination of the two options above.
In conclusion, we can say that changing your lifestyle is the first step to keeping cholesterol levels under control and thus preventing cardiovascular disease.
Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to control cholesterol levels and medical treatment may be required.
- Istituto Superiore di Sanità – EPICENTRO- colesterolo e ipercolesterolemia: disponibile al link http://www.epicentro.iss.it/colesterolo/
- Società Europea di Cardiologia, Società sulla Prevenzione delle Malattie Cardiovascolari nella Pratica Clinica, Associazione Europea per la Prevenzione e Riabilitazione Cardiovascolare (EACPR). Linee guida europee 2016 sulla prevenzione delle malattie cardiovascolari nella pratica clinica. SG Ital Cardiol 2017;18(7-8):547-612.
- Documento di consenso e raccomandazioni per la prevenzione cardiovascolare in Italia 2018
- Ministero della Salute. Linee guida per la prevenzione dell’aterosclerosi
- Cholesterol _ MedlinePlus