Cholesterol is a fatty substance found throughout the body. While some cholesterol is necessary to digest foods and manufacture vitamin D and certain hormones, individuals who have high cholesterol are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Doctors can monitor a patient's cholesterol levels with simple blood tests, and most recommend healthy adults over twenty years old to have a cholesterol test at least once every five years. Individuals with high cholesterol need more frequent testing. If cholesterol is elevated, dietary changes are typically advised, and some patients may need to use cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins or newer injectable drugs too.
To reduce cholesterol levels with a dietary approach, current guidelines suggest making the changes described below.
Look For High-Fiber Foods
Individuals who have elevated cholesterol may wish to look out for high-fiber foods as they begin to adopt a healthier lifestyle. A type of fiber known as soluble fiber is especially beneficial in the reduction of cholesterol. This form of fiber binds to cholesterol while it is in the small intestine, preventing the cholesterol from being absorbed by the body. Current guidelines recommend female patients should consume twenty-five grams of fiber each day, and male patients should aim to consume thirty-eight grams. Nationally, most individuals only consume fifteen grams of fiber per day. Research indicates increasing soluble fiber intake by just five to ten grams each day can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by five percent. Oats, green peas, apples, and several types of beans and citrus fruits are all high in fiber; each contains roughly one to three grams of fiber per serving. In particular, oats are especially helpful in lowering cholesterol since they contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that may reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by up to 14.5 percent (based on the consumption of eleven grams of beta-glucan each day). Patients who adopt a high-fiber diet should typically see changes in their cholesterol after four weeks.
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