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Health Team

Exercise, proper diet can help lower cholesterol

Posted April 5

During a physical, routine blood work might show unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Doctors say the best way to drop cholesterol levels is for patients to exercise more and improve their diets. One of the usual culprits of high cholesterol is red meat.

The big problem with red meat, such as a cheeseburger, is not only the processed cheese but the meat itself.

Dietitians now recommend lean red meat twice a week or so and no more than 6 to 8 ounces total per week.

Also, eating more fish—grilled or baked, not fried—can help lower levels, too.

Doctors say eating less red meat, as well as adding more vegetables, fruits and whole grains, can lower total cholesterol by 25 percent or more.

Here are four ways doctors say people with high cholesterol can change their lifestyles to improve their health:

–When reading grocery labels, avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Most vegetable fats and oils are made up of unsaturated fats, which are healthy for the heart. Foods that contain healthy fats include oily fish, such as tuna and salmon, and also nuts, seeds, and some vegetables.

Not-so-healthy saturated fats are found in many meats and dairy products. Trans fats are foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

–Look for more soluble fiber, which can be found in oatmeal and fruits. Soluble fiber can lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a healthy fat diet.

–Buy foods that include plant sterols and stanols, which are naturally occurring plant compounds found in some spreads, juices and yogurts. These compounds help limit the amount of cholesterol a person's body can absorb.

–Make sure the diet fits the person. There is no "one size fits all" diet for cholesterol control. Patients might have to try several approaches to find one that works.

Still, different people have different genetic makeups and physiologies, which can make the same diet affect two people in different ways.

If dieting alone is not working, some people end up having to take a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as a statin, to control levels.

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