Monday, April 19, 2010


Change Your Lifestyle, Lower Your Cholesterol

Therapeutic lifestyle changes, or TLC, can lower your cholesterol levels and put you on the road to good health.
By Lynn Yoffee

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

Many people — 17 percent of Americans — have high cholesterol for a variety of reasons, most of which can be controlled. A healthy diet is one way to reduce the build-up of this fatty substance in your artery walls, which can often lead to heart disease.

If you have high cholesterol (200 mg/dL and higher) and have heart disease or other risk factors, your doctor may recommend the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Cholesterol Education Program.

How to Lower Cholesterol: The TLC Diet

The TLC diet teaches you how to lower cholesterol levels. It revolves around an intensive lifestyle intervention to reduce your cholesterol and your chances for developing heart disease.

Here are the primary goals of the TLC diet:

* Reduce your sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams per day.
* Make sure saturated fats make up less than 7 percent of your daily calorie intake.
* Limit your fat calories to no more than 25 percent to 35 percent of your total calorie intake each day.
* Reduce your intake of dietary cholesterol, which is found in foods from animals, to less than 200 milligrams a day.
* Eat only enough calories each day to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
* Limit your carbohydrate intake to 50 percent to 60 percent of your total daily calorie consumption, making sure it comes mostly from foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
* Make sure to consume about 15 percent of your daily calories in the form of protein.
How to Lower Cholesterol: Putting TLC to Work for You

The numbers that are explained above sound straightforward, but putting the TLC diet to work means you may need to find new ways to shop, eat, and cook. Here are a few tips to put you on the road to good health:

* To reduce sodium in your diet, pick low-sodium foods — such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low or nonfat dairy products — and eat moderate amounts of lean meat. Also, get rid of your salt shaker: Season with herbs and spices instead.
* Skip fatty cuts of meat, remove poultry skin, choose low-fat dairy products, and avoid foods that contain tropical oils, such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils.
* Changing your diet can be challenging. Your physician may send you to a registered dietitian (RD) for guidance on how to lower your cholesterol level. An RD will help create a TLC diet that will work for you, will keep tabs on your progress, and provide you with moral support.

Exercise to Lower Cholesterol

You don't have to become a marathon runner or mountain climber to get the benefits of regular exercise, but consistent physical activity will likely help you to:

* Lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol level
* Raise your HDL (good) cholesterol level
* Reduce your blood pressure
* Lower your level of triglycerides (chemical form of fat)
* Shed extra pounds
* Improve the overall fitness of your heart and lungs

Start with some simple activities, such as walking, taking the stairs, gardening, or dancing. Then, for more aggressive exercise, try brisk walking, swimming, tennis, or bicycling. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week.

As soon as you change your eating habits and add in some exercise, you're likely to see your cholesterol level and weight begin to drop as a direct result of your hard work.