If you looked at me, you probably wouldn’t immediately think I had high cholesterol. But last year, at one of my regularly scheduled doctor’s visits, I discovered that my bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) numbers were too high. My doctor prescribed a statin and encouraged me to make significant lifestyle changes such as eating better, managing my stress levels, and getting 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise 3-4 times a week.
Did you know low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), or bad cholesterol, can build up and cause plaque in the bloodstream? This plaque builds up along the walls of arteries, making it more difficult for blood to flow through the arteries and out to the body.
To manage my cholesterol levels, I’ve replaced higher carbohydrate foods with those rich in predominantly monounsaturated fat (such as avocados). Adding more fiber into my diet by choosing foods that are high in soluble fiber, such as apples has also helped to improve my cholesterol levels.
I’ve also discovered that something as simple as relaxing on my front porch with some green tea with honey instead of a soda can help improve my overall health. And I’m doing a better job of practicing self-care.
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States and African Americans are affected at disproportionate rates. This condition can be deceiving because you can’t see or feel it like some other conditions, but it can have serious consequences.
It’s important to get your cholesterol checked regularly by your doctor every 4-6 years for adults over the age of 20, per the American Heart Association. If your LDL numbers are too high, work with your doctor as your heart health partner to ensure you’re on a management plan that fits your unique needs.
Smart lifestyle choices can help to manage high cholesterol, but for some people, this may not be enough to reach their cholesterol goals. For those folks, a doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication in addition to a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise.