Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found in the blood and is separated into two different categories: LDL, also known as low-density lipoprotein, and HDL, also known as high-density lipoprotein. Having too much LDL cholesterol is unhealthy – it can form plaque on the walls of your arteries and stop blood flow to the heart and brain, therefore it is considered the “bad” type of cholesterol, while HDL is considered the “good” cholesterol as it is protective and removes excess cholesterol from the body.
Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests getting your cholesterol tested if you are a male over the age of 40, a man over the age of 50, have high blood pressure, diabetes, are a smoker, or have a family history of heart disease or stroke.
In order to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends making some necessary lifestyle changes. First and foremost, eat healthy. Foods such as fatty meats, full-fat milk, butter, hydrogenated margarine, eggs, baked goods, cookies, packaged crackers and deep-fried foods all contain saturated fats and trans-fats, which are increase cholesterol levels. Instead, choose lean meat, low-fat dairy products, and monosaturated fats (i.e. olive oil and canola oil). You should also increase your intake of soluble fibres, which includes fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, oats and oat bran. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are also great for increasing the “good” cholesterol in your system, in addition to having other health benefits such as reducing blood pressure. A few examples of foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include nuts (almonds and walnuts), flax seeds, mackerel and salmon.
Along with healthy eating, Dr. Ali Ghahary also encourages patients to stay fit, as getting regular exercise can also improve your cholesterol. While some people think that you need to have long, strenuous workouts in order to stay healthy, that’s just a myth. As little as 30 minutes of exercise each day can have major benefits for your health. It can be something as simple as going for a short walk, riding your bicycle to work (instead of driving!), playing sports, or swimming. There are also fun exercise classes that you can join, which are offered at many community centres throughout Vancouver. You can find some of these by visiting Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Community page. It may also be helpful to find a friend to stay fit with, as this can often help individuals to stay motivated.
In some cases, diet and exercise may not always be enough to keep your cholesterol levels where they should be, and your doctor may need to prescribe you with a cholesterol-lowering medication.