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Jay Leno is admitting his admission into the high cholesterol club.  Not a surprise since I have read in the past that he jokingly says he hasn’t eaten a vegetable since 1969.  Per a recent article, Jay found that his LDL cholesterol (the “lousy” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to the tissues, including the arteries) was high.  He made some dietary modifications including giving up the “Bacon of the Month Club” and perhaps he is now walking some instead of driving one of the many cars in his garage.  But there are 5 lifestyle changes Jay can make that would  improve LDL cholesterol as effectively as medication (20-30%), and the same is true for anyone.  

A high LDL cholesterol on a blood test may be only part of the story and further testing can be completed to see if the LDL particles are oxidized (dangerous) or not.  Oxidation creates damage to the cholesterol particles and causes them to stick more to the artery lining to create a blockage.  Vegetable and fruit haters like Leno are missing out on the ANTI-oxidants that could prevent this process.   

There is an on-line brochure from the National Institutes of Health  titled “Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol with TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes)”.  It is a long title and a long brochure, however, one page gives the summary of how one can reduce their LDL cholesterol by 20-30% with lifestyle changes.  Here are the 5 steps:

  1. Decrease saturated fat to less than 7% of calories.              Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and come in foods like  butter, cheese, red meat, and of course bacon.  For a 2,000 calorie per day diet this would be around 140 calories from saturated fat per day or less.
  2. Decrease dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg/day.                   This may be especially true for hyper-responders or those who have a genetic propensity toward high cholesterol.  However, limiting fried foods, fast foods, processed foods and desserts would be helpful for any person.  Some foods with cholesterol are just too nutritious to pass up (think eggs).  
  3. Lose 10 pounds if overweight.                                                          Even a 5% weight loss has benefits for health. 
  4. Add 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day.                                    Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.  Notice, these are all REAL foods in their real form. 
  5. Add 2 grams/day of plant sterols/stanols.                                     These compounds occur naturally in many grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.  Sterols and stannous can now be found as supplements or as additions to food because of their cholesterol-lowering properties. 

Joining the “Normal Numbers” club certainly is possible and think of what a celebrity you could become with your doctor, your family, and your body, which will thank you profusely.  This month is National Cholesterol Education Month, so now you are in the KNOW.