I’m an Athlete with High Cholesterol
I recently found out that I have high cholesterol. I’ve been a runner all my life. I can’t say that I’ve ever paid a whole lot of attention to what I eat. I maintain a healthy body weight and run 4-6 times a week. I just can’t believe I have high cholesterol. Any thoughts on this?
There is a strong genetic link with having high cholesterol if there is a family history. If your mother has high cholesterol (and you mother’s mother and so on), you are more likely to have high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance naturally produced by the body and needed for biological processes. Although the body needs cholesterol, having high cholesterol is bad because it can build up in the walls of the arteries that bring blood to the heart and brain. There is what is considered a good cholesterol and a bad cholesterol.
“Good” Cholesterol – HDL
HDL carries the “bad” cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver where it is recycled or eliminated from the body. A value of 60 mg/dl or higher can lower your risk of heart disease. People with a value below 40 mg/dl have an increased risk of heart disease. Your daily exercise regimen helps boost this HDL number.
“Bad” Cholesterol – LDL
If levels are abnormally high the LDL will build up in the bloodstream and attach to the artery walls. As the LDL interacts with other substances a plaque-like substance is produced that can clog the arteries. Optimal LDL cholesterol level is less than 100 mg/dl. High levels of LDL increase your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke.
Your total cholesterol takes into account your HDL, LDL, and other lipid components. This level we always want to read less than 200 mg/dl.
Whether the link is genetic or diet related you will want to modify your diet. A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can raise total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Think high fiber whenever possible. Fiber interferes with the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol. Eat whole grain breads, pastas, and crackers, fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich breakfast cereals, and legumes to boost your fiber intake.
Animal products are rich with cholesterol. Choose lean cuts of meat with fat trimmed, egg whites/substitutes, as well as low fat milk products and cheeses.
Eat plenty of fish and omega-3 fatty acids. Two servings of fish a week would be a great goal. Walnuts and other nuts are also great for supporting lower cholesterol. Also look for the words plant sterols on labels. Food fortified with plant sterols can support healthy cholesterol levels.
Choose healthy oils such as olive, corn, canola, safflower oils.
Try to limit meat to about 6 ounces per day
Whole milk dairy products (including that extra-rich post-run ice cream)
Snacks and processed foods high in fat and/or trans fat such as donuts and frozen pot pies