Senior Health

9/11/2020 | By Rachel Marsh

There is “good” cholesterol and there is “bad” cholesterol.

Just what is cholesterol?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that helps [our bodies] make cell membranes, many hormones, and vitamin D.”

It’s an essential substance in our bodies. We get it from two sources. It comes from the food we eat, and it is also manufactured in our liver.

Cholesterol is carried throughout our bodies in our blood. If it is “good” cholesterol (technically called high-density lipoprotein), it percolates merrily through our arteries and veins with no problem.

If it is “bad’ cholesterol (technically called low-density lipoprotein), then the fats in the cholesterol have a tendency to settle out and get caught in the linings of our veins and arteries as plaque, similar to the plaque on our teeth.

This plaque builds up gradually – just like oil and grease gummed up with food particles does in the pipe in the kitchen sink – until eventually no blood at all can get through. As the arteries gradually close, there are signs, eventually, of chest pain, or shortness of breath … and eventually a heart attack or stroke can occur as blood simply can’t make it to the heart.

Ideally, the presence of LDL cholesterol in our blood should be below a certain amount, and our HDL level should be above a certain amount.

When your doctor administers a blood test, the levels of these two types are measured and medication to lower the one and increase the other may be prescribed.

But how can you keep your cholesterol at an optimum level “naturally”?

Here Are 6 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Cholesterol Level

1. Consume “Good” Fats and Eliminate “Bad” Fats From Your Diet

We do need to consume fat, but just as there is good and bad cholesterol, so there is good and bad fat.

Cut down on the saturated fats found in red meat (beef, steak) and in dairy products that haven’t had the fat removed from them. Eat only lean beef and drink low-fat milk.

Eliminate artificial trans fats – which you’ll find on food ingredient labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.” At the very least, reduce your intake of fried foods such as donuts, and, sadly, baked goods such as pie crusts, frozen pizza, cookies and crackers.

2. Supplements to Lower Cholesterol

According to the Mayo Clinic, whey protein used as a supplement lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol – as well as blood pressure. Whey protein powder can be found at health food stores. Skim milk also contains whey, and doesn’t have the fat of whole milk.

3. Does Exercise Lower Cholesterol?

Yes! An active lifestyle, combined with eating properly, helps fight bad cholesterol. If you’re mobile, go for a bike ride or a walk every day. If you are unable to walk due to balance issues, consider purchasing a pedal exercise. This isn’t a bicycle, but rather pedals that can be set to have resistance. This can be placed on the floor in front of you, so that you can pedal while you are in a comfortable chair. (There are many types of pedal exercisers – typically you want a heavier and therefore sturdier (and more expensive) model.

4. Low Cholesterol Diet Plan

Maintaining a weight commensurate with your height accomplishes many things. There’s less strain on your joints, especially if you have to climb stairs, and less strain on your heart. The combination of factors that help seniors maintain a healthy weight – eating the right kinds of foods and desserts only in moderation, as well as exercising – also go toward lowering cholesterol.

5. Stopping Smoking

People who stop smoking will notice many benefits. It will be easier to breathe, food will taste better, clothes will smell better and so will your house … and the lack of nicotine in your system can also help lower cholesterol.

6. Get Regular Checkups

According to Mt. Sinia Medical Center, it’s important to have a health checkup at least once a year. At this checkup, your doctor should take bloodwork to test for cholesterol levels as well as other issues. If, after you’ve made the changes mentioned above and your levels do not improve, consult with your doctor about appropriate medication.

Rachel Marsh

Award-winning writer Rachel Marsh has written for many different sites and publications on a variety of topics. She is the multimedia editor for Seniors Guide and works hard to make sure seniors and their families have the best information possible. When she’s not writing for work, she can be found writing for fun. Really!

Rachel Marsh