This post is sponsored by Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Inc. Personal opinions and thoughts are my own.
As a wellness author and speaker, people often ask me questions about cholesterol and heart disease. In partnership with Take Cholesterol to Heart, I’m answering some of the most common questions. Want to learn more? Be sure to visit Take Cholesterol to Heart for more information on managing your cholesterol levels.
Q: I know that exercise is an important piece of a cholesterol management plan, but I find it hard to get motivated. Do you have any advice?
A: Yes! As the video below shows, partnering with an enthusiastic exerciser is a great way to help stay motivated in order to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and keep your risk factors for heart disease at bay. Ask yourself who in your life enjoys exercise. Maybe it is your spouse, a friend… or your dog. Letting them help get you up and moving can make a big difference in your health. For me, once I get started, I can take that daily walk. It helps to have someone making “puppy dog eyes” at me!
Q: How does exercise help lower my cholesterol levels?
A: Exercise can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and can lower your cholesterol by raising your high-density lipoprotein – aka HDL or “good” – cholesterol and making your low-density lipoprotein – aka LDL or “bad” – cholesterol less likely to form plaque in your blood vessels. I’m not an eager exerciser, and it takes some serious motivation to get me up and moving. Partnering with an enthusiastic exerciser, like our Australian Shepherd Maisy, is a great strategy.
Q: What if diet and exercise alone don’t work to manage cholesterol?
A: For many of us, high cholesterol is hereditary and as healthy as we try to be, diet and exercise may not be enough to manage it. To reduce the risk of heart disease caused by cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication called a statin, which works by blocking an essential enzyme that the liver needs to make LDL (bad) cholesterol, thus helping reduce plaque buildup.
Q: What can I eat to lower my cholesterol levels?
A: Eating fewer foods with saturated fats and trans-fats and more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce LDL levels. Right, I know that sounds daunting, but fitting in more fiber doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be as simple as having oatmeal for breakfast. I’m sure I am not alone in being a creature of habit at breakfast time. I have a few “go-to” items I eat most of the time. I eat oatmeal most days, but it gets a little boring. So, every now and then I like to shake things up. For example, last weekend after we went apple picking, I used my big supply of apples – a great source of fiber! – sitting on the counter to make some healthy oatmeal apple muffins with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg. The change in texture (from a bowl of oatmeal) and the warm spices have made our breakfasts this week more enjoyable. Change up your breakfast and do something nice for your heart at the same time!
Q: What does high cholesterol feel like?
A: High cholesterol is sneaky because you can’t see or feel it like some other conditions. The only way to confirm if you have it is to visit your doctor and be tested. High cholesterol – especially high LDL, or bad cholesterol – is a significant risk factor for heart disease. And, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, which is why it is essential to pay attention to your cholesterol levels, even if you are feeling well.
Q: What is the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol?
A: Cholesterol is produced by the liver and comes from the food you eat. It’s important to note that we need a certain amount of cholesterol to maintain healthy cells. But as with most things, too much of anything can be bad for you. In the case of cholesterol, this is very true, especially for the LDL or “bad” cholesterol. When there is too much, this “bad” cholesterol can deposit and sink into the walls of arteries, creating a buildup called plaque. Think of it as sludge forming on the inside of pipes. As plaque builds, the artery walls thicken which narrows the space available for blood to flow. Ultimately, the buildup of plaque slows down the flow of blood. This reduced blood flow robs cells of the oxygen they need. This type of heart disease, atherosclerosis, is often referred to as “hardening of the arteries.” Alternatively, HDL-C, or “good” cholesterol, removes excess peripheral cholesterol through a process called reserve cholesterol transport. To help avoid the buildup of plaque and ultimately heart disease, try using these heart-healthy tips!
Q: I feel better when I don’t take my statin. Why do I need it?
A: Over the years, I’ve worked with my doctors to adjust all kinds of medications, so they work for me. Sometimes we can change the dose, other times we’ve needed to try a different medication. The key is to let your doctor know when you are having challenges. It may take some fine-tuning to find the drug and dose that works best for you. If you’re having challenges with your statin and you’re considering stopping, talk to your doctor first. There are many statins available, so it’s important to work with your doctor to find the best one for you. At least 50 percent of people taking a statin medication for high cholesterol stop taking it within a year of starting it, which means they are unprotected from the dangerous effects of plaque buildup and at a much higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
You can find great resources to prepare for a discussion with your doctor about what you are experiencing at Take Cholesterol to Heart
Don’t let high cholesterol sneak up on you! Make an appointment with your doctor today.
This post is sponsored by Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, and should not be construed to constitute medical advice. Personal opinions and thoughts are my own. I am not a medical professional and am not qualified to give medical advice. Please talk with your doctor about your individual medical situation.