Alice Smith

September is Cholesterol Education Month and is a time to learn about cholesterol and your health. More than 65 million Americans have high blood cholesterol, a serious condition that increases risk for heart disease. High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so many are unaware their levels are too high. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens the risk of developing heart disease and reduces the chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease.

Everyone age 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every 5 year and know their numbers. Knowing your total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol can give you a general idea about cholesterol levels. For total cholesterol, a desirable number is less than 200 mg/dL.

HDL (good) cholesterol protects against heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better. A level less than 40 mg/dL is low and considered a major risk factor. HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.

Cholesterol can be controlled for many people by following good nutrition and eating. Soluble fiber helps reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, and foods such as oatmeal, beans (such as kidney black, pinto and navy beans), apples, pears, barley and prunes contain soluble fiber.

Eating fatty fish (such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, Albacore tuna, salmon, and halibut) can be heart-healthy because of omega3 fatty acid content, which can reduce blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. Doctors recommend getting at least two servings of fish a week. Walnuts, almonds and other nuts can also help reduce blood cholesterol.

A high intake of saturated fat is associated with high levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Individuals should limit foods high in saturated fat and replace them with foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. When making food at home, replace solid fats (e.g., butter and lard) with vegetable oils rich in monounsaturated fats (such as canola, olive, and safflower oils) and polyunsaturated fats (such as soybean, corn, and cottonseed oils) and trim fat from meat. When purchasing food, buy fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese.

Regular physical activity is recommended for everyone. Research shows exercise helps prevent heart disease and obesity, lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, and raises HDL cholesterol. Youth and adults should aim for 30 to 60 minutes on most days. You can even spread it out over the course of your day. Adding physical activity, even in 10-minute intervals throughout the day, can help with weight loss and maintenance. Remember to try different activities and find something you enjoy. Finding a workout buddy or group may also be helpful and keep you accountable.

Finding time to exercise is not hard. Try taking a ten minute walk over your lunch hour with a co-worker, riding your bike to work, swimming some laps, working on your garden, or playing your favorite sport. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or do some exercises during the commercial breaks of your favorite TV shows (there can be up to 20 minutes of commercials in an hour-long program).

Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. Losing weight can help lower your LDL, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL levels. Losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds can help reduce cholesterol. Consider your barriers to losing weight and find ways to overcome them. If you eat when you’re bored or frustrated, do something physically active instead. If you eat fast food for lunch, pack something healthier from home. Consider bringing a smart snack bag to work or having a smart snack drawer to help you avoid the temptation of the vending machine or treats at the workplace. Examples of great snacks to have on hand are whole fruits such as apples, oranges and bananas, dried fruit (lots of variety available), whole grain cereal, graham crackers, peanut butter with apples or whole grain crackers, and a variety of nuts. Many things can impact cholesterol levels. While age, gender, and heredity are things you cannot do anything about, nutrition, physical activity level, and weight status are things you can do something about. Take time get your levels checked if you never have or it has been longer than five years. If you are over 55 you can get your cholesterol checked at the Jasper -Newton Senior Expo that will be October 9 at the Jasper County Fairgrounds.

The family will enjoy this heart healthy Baked Salmon Dijon recipe. Preheat the oven to 400 and lightly prepare a baking sheet with cooking spray. Wisk together 1 cup fat-free sour cream, 2 teaspoons dried dill, 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a bowl to blend. Place one and a half pounds of salmon filet cut into serving size portions and sprinkle with garlic powder and black pepper then top with the prepared sauce. Bake the fillets until each is opaque in the center and flakes easily or about 20 minutes. The internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Serve immediately with your favorite vegetables.