For years, as the obesity crisis in America deepend and worsened, we as a society heard about the importants of maintaining a watch on our cholesterol. “Low cholesterol,” the theory held, “would lead to lower chance of heart disease, cardiac arrest, stroke, diabetes and a host of other inflammatory conditions.”
But monitoring your overall cholesterol is only part of the plan to a healthier and happier, not to mention thinner, life. It’s equally important to understand that cholesterol isn’t just a monolithic measurement of your health, but can be broken down into distinct parts itself.
One part is Low-density cholesterol (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. Generally speaking, the lower this number is, the better for you. The other part is High-density cholesterol (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. You want to get this number as high as you can.
So what, then, is there to know about your ldl and hdl cholesterol levels? Well, generally speaking your ldl cholesterol levels should be 130 or below. If, however, you’re at higher risk for an inflammatory disease such as heart disease or diabetes – both of which have grown exponentially in the United States over the past four decades – your target should be 100 or below.
There are ways to achieve this, starting obviously with diet. Cut out fatty foods, processed foods, and overeating. Instead, you should aim to keep your proteins lean – fish and chicken are the standbys here – and your vegetables fresh. It’s also important to remember that we evolved over four million years, and only in the last 50 have we been able to live a lifestyle that included more than one serving of meat a day. So yes, a salad or rice and beans for lunch several times a week is a wise choice.
With hdl cholesterol levels, it’s not nearly as easy to improve. The only thing shown to consistently raise hdl cholesterol levels is steady aerobic activity. That’s right – regular exercise. Getting your hdl cholesterol levels up above 50 (above 60 if you’re in an at-risk group) means getting on an exercise bike, going for a jog, doing tae bow or the like for about 20 minutes a day four times a week. This is why there are no extensive books about hdl cholesterol levels diets and the like – there are no diets that have been shown conclusively to effect hdl cholesterol levels. Exercise is the key here.
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