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A cholesterol primer

The DoctorsUSA WEEKEND

Having too much “bad” LDL cholesterol – the kind that clogs arteries – in your blood and not enough “good” HDL cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. So it stands to reason: Lower LDL and raise HDL, and your risk decreases. But recently researchers found that taking a common HDL-boosting drug did not protect people with cardiovascular disease from heart attack and stroke. Research continues, but what experts know for sure is that taking steps to cut bad cholesterol can help keep you healthy. Medications (such as statins) help; so does a better diet. Start with these steps:Cook with olive oilIt contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and a potent mix of antioxidants that help lower LDL cholesterol. Extra-virgin is best, but it’s high in calories, so stick to 2 tablespoons a day.Eat more pinto beansAdding about a half-cup to your daily diet could lower total cholesterol by up to 8 percent, scientists at Arizona State University Polytechnic say. That’s because they’re full of soluble fiber, which helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Other fiber-rich foods: oatmeal, kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes.Avoid store-bought cookiesSkip the ready-to-eat crackers and cakes as well: Many of these commercially baked goods contain unhealthy trans fats, which raise your bad cholesterol levels and reduce the good kind. For an average 2,000-calorie diet, limit trans fats to about 2 grams a day. Foods that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans-fats can be marked “trans fat-free” on the label-eat a bunch of them and you reach your 2-gram limit quickly. Instead, read the ingredients list: If it contains any partially hydrogenated oil, that’s a trans fat.Drink more green teaA new report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people who drank green tea or took an extract lowered total cholesterol an average of about 7 points and bad LDL by just over 2 points. In moderate amounts, green tea is safe for most adults, but taking a concentrated extract might cause liver problems in some people, and green tea may also reduce the effectiveness of certain medications. Before adding green tea to your cholesterol-cutting plan, talk to your doctor.


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