Stroke management revolves around one thing: we need to protect the arteries that keep our life-giving blood flowing freely. One of the best ways to protect these passages is to manage our cholesterol consumption.
Is Cholesterol Even Necessary?
Yes, some cholesterol is absolutely necessary! However, since our body already produces cholesterol on its own, consuming excessive cholesterol manifests as plaque that builds up in our arteries – yuck. As the plaque begins to restrict blood flow, it can eventually stop it completely, resulting in a stroke.
However, not all cholesterol is bad! In fact, some cholesterol is necessary to carry out specific functions in the body, like producing vitamin D. Now let’s distinguish between the good and the bad.
HDL vs. LDL Cholesterol
To distinguish between the hero and the villain, let’s discuss the difference between the two different types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL cholesterol. LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol that contributes to plaque which builds up on your arterial walls, making them less flexible and even clogged. HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol because it acts as a healthy scavenger, carrying bad LDL away from the bloodstream and into the liver where it’s broken down. An easy trick to remember the difference is that LDL is Lousy and HDL is Healthy (cheesy, but effective). If you have high cholesterol, you can attack it on both fronts by reducing your LDL and increasing HDL.
Fight ‘Bad’ Cholesterol with Fiber
To lower LDL levels, try eating more fiber-rich foods like beans, oats, fruits, and vegetables. Foods rich in soluble fiber have been proven to effectively lower cholesterol. If you don’t have time to pack yourself some fresh, fiber-rich foods, then you can try adding some psyllium fiber (commonly known as Metamucil) to your diet. Try mixing it into a fruit smoothie for a double boost.
Avoid These Unhealthy Foods Too
Another highly effective way to lower LDL cholesterol levels is to limit your intake of saturated fats like butter, fatty red meat, and palm oil. Also, keep an eye out for the ingredient ‘partially hydrogenated fat’ on your food labels because it’s code for a nasty, artery-clogging trans fat that you want to avoid completely. While these steps will help you lower your LDL cholesterol, it’s only half the battle.
Boosting ‘Good’ Cholesterol
To keep those arteries clear, boosting HDL levels is a must. For starters, maintaining a healthy weight can help raise HDL and lower LDL – a win-win. Also, exercise is an excellent way to boost HDL and help slow down or stop fatty deposits from clogging your arteries. Lastly, if you smoke, then kicking the habit permanently can help raise your HDL levels. These 3 major lifestyle changes can be difficult, but they will change your life for the better.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to our health. A lifestyle full of healthy, unprocessed food and regular exercise seems to be the best way to protect our overall health. However, focusing on maintaining good cholesterol levels is a great first step in stroke management.