Getting high cholesterol under control - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Getting high cholesterol under control

High cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. You might look healthy and feel healthy - and unknowingly be living with this condition that shows no symptoms.

43-year-old John Needham is a husband and father in Lake Charles with a good bill of health now.  But that was not always the case, even when his days in the Army had him running five miles a day.  "I was extremely physically fit. I only weighed about 175 pounds and my cholesterol was in the 300 range," said Needham.

A healthy total cholesterol is less than 200. Needham's 300 put him in the dangerously high category, as registered nurse Jacqueline Richard with CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital's Diabetes Management Center explains.  "Having high cholesterol puts you at twice the risk for developing heart disease," said Richard.

One in six Americans have high cholesterol, but you will not know you are in that category without a blood test. Once it is determined you are in an unhealthy range, changes must start with your diet - cutting out foods with high saturated fat.  "That means the stick butter, whole milk, heavy whipping cream, sour cream, cream cheese, regular mayos, full fat cheeses," said Richard.

Foods with high dietary cholesterol also have to be kept in check.  "Egg yolks, organ meats, shellfish, those are all high cholesterol foods," said Richard.

Needham tries to stick to lean meats, fruits and veggies.  It is a meal plan that has helped him drop 35 pounds and lower his cholesterol.  "I've tried to watch and only eat natural foods, no fried foods, no breaded foods and it's worked really well for me, I've dropped quite a bit of weight," he said.

Some people with high cholesterol also have to take a statin to keep the numbers in check.  It is something Needham does not mind if it means he stays healthier longer.  "My hope is to have a long life," he said, "and be able to take care of my kids and also to prevent anything that I might have naturally been disposed to."

While diet is one of the most important ways that you can help to lower your cholesterol, physical activity is also very important and can help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise the HDL (good cholesterol).

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