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Tips to Control Your Cholesterol

Basic habits can help you reduce your risk of heart disease

Veteran buying healthy food at the storeHigh cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. However, you can lower your high cholesterol and improve your health by adopting some of these lifestyle changes.

Ask your doctor what changes you need to make, but expect their advice to include tips like these:

Eat less fat

A healthy goal is to have less than 20-35% of your daily calories come from fat. Instead of fats, eat more fruits, grains, and vegetables. There are different kinds of fats in foods. The best fats to choose are unsaturated fats. But fats are high in calories, so eat even unsaturated fats sparingly. Try your best to limit the following:

  • Fatty cuts of meat (lamb, ham, beef)

  • Many pastries, cakes, cookies, and candies

  • Cream, ice cream, sour cream, cheese, and butter, and foods made with them

  • Sauces made with butter or cream

  • Salad dressings with saturated fats

  • Foods that contain palm or coconut oil

Try new cooking methods

To eat less fat, you may need to learn some new ways to cook. But that doesn't mean you should eat bland, boring food. It doesn't mean spending more time cooking.

Here are tips for cooking and seasoning foods with less fat:

  • Broil, roast, bake, steam, or microwave fish, chicken, turkey, and meat

  • Remove skin from chicken and turkey and trim extra fat from meat before cooking

  • Sprinkle herbs on meat, chicken, and fish, and in soups

  • Cook in broth instead of fat

  • Use nonstick cooking sprays or nonstick pans

  • To flavor beans and rice, add chopped onions, garlic, and peppers

  • Chill soups and stews. Before reheating and serving, skim off the fat

  • When you add fat, use canola or olive oil instead of butter or lard

Take medications the right way

There are different kinds of medications to help with cholesterol levels. Some help to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol). Some help raise your HDL (good cholesterol). And some do both. It may take time to find the right medication for you, but once you do, it's important to take it the right way.

  • Tell your doctor about any other medications you take. This includes over-the-counter medications, as well as vitamins and herbs

  • Take your medication exactly as directed. This helps ensure that it works as it should

  • Do not skip a dose

  • Do not stop taking it if you feel better

  • Do not stop taking it when your cholesterol numbers improve

  • Order your refill before your medication runs out

Check, track, and share your progress

Blood tests check how much cholesterol you have in your blood. You need to get checked regularly and as often as your health care provider says. As you make changes to your diet and lifestyle, your numbers will change slowly.

With a registered My HealtheVet account, Veterans can record their cholesterol levels online using the Track Health feature. There you can view your progress, as well as share cholesterol information with your health care team.

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