Dyslipi – Whaat??
Being diagnosed with high cholesterol, also known as dyslipidemia, can be scary, especially when you’re unsure what it is and how to manage it!
Some cholesterol is made in the body, but it can also come from the foods we eat like meats, eggs, butter, and dairy. The body needs cholesterol to help with digestion, be used as part of hormones, and make Vitamin D from sunlight. Needless to say, it’s essential to our body’s function! The problem is when we have too much cholesterol.
Dyslipidemia is the condition of abnormal or high levels of fat in the blood, particularly cholesterol and triglycerides.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
- LDL, aka “the bad cholesterol”
LDL makes up most of the cholesterol in our body. Our body uses LDL to make various hormones, protect nerves, and build cells.
- HDL, aka “the good cholesterol”
HDL works by absorbing LDL and carries it to the liver and out of your blood vessels.
Triglycerides are the body’s way of storing and transporting fat for use in energy production, energy storage, cell structure, hormone production, nutrient absorption, and more!
The body needs all three to function, but unfortunately, with dyslipidemia, LDL cholesterol is too high, HDL cholesterol is too low, triglycerides are too high, or a combination of these!
The good news is that there are strategies that can help reduce dyslipidemia!
What’s the harm?
While our body does need cholesterol to function, too much is not a good thing. Cholesterol travels in our blood vessels and can stick to the blood vessel walls. Over time, these deposits grow into plaque, which increases inflammation of the area. The blood vessel walls can also stiffen, narrow, or get clogged, which increases pressure on the heart and can lead to a heart attack. These plaques can also come apart, forming clots, leading to stroke.
5 Ways to Reduce High Cholesterol:
- Increase Omega-3 fatty acids
While omega-3 does not directly reduce LDL cholesterol, it can increase HDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides. Omega-3 also has many other benefits for brain health, healthy skin, reducing inflammation, and improving bone strength.
The recommendation is to include at least two servings of fatty fish like salmon or mackerel per week, but fish can be costly! Try including other omega-3 rich foods in your diet, such as chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds, canned fish, and soybeans for a more economical way to get the benefits of omega-3s.
- Reduce saturated fats
Saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol and contribute to inflammation. These fats are found primarily in red meats and dairy products.
Replacing some of the saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats in our diets is one way to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Sources of unsaturated fats include:
- Vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Increase dietary fibre
Dietary fibre is found in the parts of plants that is hard for the body to digest or absorb. It is mostly found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Including more fibre-rich foods in your diet offers many benefits, including improved digestion, regular bowel movements, improved blood sugar control, and lowering LDL cholesterol. High intakes of soluble fibre can reduce LDL cholesterol by 3-10%!
A diet rich in fibre can also contribute to healthy weight management and decreased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Pulses (beans, peas, and lentils) and whole grains in Canada, especially the prairies, are abundant! These foods are rich in both protein and fibre, making them an excellent addition to your meals! They also tend to be much more affordable! A can of chickpeas can often be found for less than a dollar and can be used to make dinner for a family of four with just a few more basic ingredients. Simply including at least two meatless dinners using grains and pulses in your week is an easy, economical way to manage your cholesterol.
Physical activity, especially moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise, can help to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Walking, running, cycling, and swimming are great ways to get your heart rate up. To get the most benefit, aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. If this seems too overwhelming for you, start small. Every movement counts! Start by taking small steps and gradually increase intensity and length of time.
- Quit smoking
Smoking not only decreases HDL cholesterol, but it also increases the cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels and increases inflammation, which significantly increases the risk for heart disease. Quitting smoking increases HDL cholesterol and helps to keep blood pressure more normal, which reduces the pressure on the heart. The good news is that most of the negative effects on cholesterol from smoking is reversible, and the effects of quitting are quick and long-lasting. In as little as 6 weeks after quitting, HDL cholesterol can significantly improve!
While a diagnosis of dyslipidemia might be scary, you can improve your numbers and take control of your health! Reach out to us today for more support, or start the Dyslipidemia Wellness Journey on My Viva Plan today!