Q: I just had my annual physical and received the lab results from my blood work. My cholesterol was high and physician recommended that I change my diet. Can you offer and tips and suggestions?
A: Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in your blood. Your body can make cholesterol as well as get it from eating meats and other animal food products. Too much cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels, causing cardiovascular disease, so it's good that you're monitoring and managing your cholesterol levels. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol, is the primary cholesterol test used to screen for heart disease because this type of cholesterol forms plaques on artery walls. The ideal range for LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL. The other lab tests usually drawn as part of a cholesterol "panel" are high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (also known as good cholesterol), triglycerides, and total cholesterol. For more information about cholesterol values, please visit the A-Z Guide.
Because your health care provider knows your entire health history, s/he is the best person with whom to discuss whether you should make lifestyle changes such as modifying your diet, increasing your physical activity, and taking cholesterol medications. To get you started, here are a few general tips for managing cholesterol:
3 Tips for Managing Cholesterol
Limit animal and dairy fats, as these naturally contain higher amounts of cholesterol. When eating animal proteins, choose lean meats, poultry and fish. The loin and round cuts of meat tend to be leaner than rib cuts and organ meats. Grill, steam, broil, roast or bake meat, poultry and fish instead of frying them.
Eat more fruits and veggies. Steam, boil, bake or microwave vegetables instead of sautéing in sauces or butter. Use herbs and spices to season foods without salt.
Increase the amount of whole grains in your diet. Certain whole grains such as oatmeal and oat bran contain soluble fibers which have been shown to lower cholesterol.
Q: I'm experiencing a lot of headaches and migraines. Could this be a symptom of high blood pressure? What are the other physical symptoms of high blood pressure?
A: High blood pressure most commonly presents with no symptoms. Hence, unless you have your blood pressure tested, most people won't be aware that they have high blood pressure. Headaches and also migraine-type headaches may present as a manifestation of high blood pressure. Vision changes, fatigue, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and abdominal pain are also occasional presenting symptoms of high blood pressure and its complications. A sudden onset of severe chest pain that radiates into the back can be seen with aortic dissection that may rarely be a presenting feature of high blood pressure. If any of these symptoms are present, you should have your blood pressure checked.