Is your cholesterol on the rise?

As if some women didn’t already have enough problems with symptoms of menopause — such as hot flashes, insomnia, decreased libido and mood swings — now they can add one more to the list. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, menopause can be responsible for a sharp increase in cholesterol levels.

This study followed 1,054 U.S. women over 10 years as they went through menopause. In nearly every woman, across ethnic groups and socioeconomic status, cholesterol levels were found to have jumped around the time of menopause — especially their LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, sometimes known as “bad” cholesterol.

In the two-year window surrounding their final menstrual period, the women’s average LDL, or bad cholesterol, rose by about 10.5 points, or about 9 percent. The average total cholesterol level also increased substantially, by about 6.5 percent.

Most of us don't start the day with this, thank goodness. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

So what can we do to avoid or minimize this?

Many people think that they need to mainly avoid foods that are high in cholesterol. That, believe it or not, is a misconception. If your diet is high in cholesterol, your body compensates for it and produces less. What does actually raise your cholesterol: foods that are high in saturated fats.

You know, the foods that so many love to eat; ice cream, french fries, pizza, steak, mashed potatoes. That egg for breakfast isn’t a problem — but watch out before you add the bacon and home fries.

No one says never to eat foods like that again. But if you want to help prevent your cholesterol from getting elevated and increasing your risk for heart disease, you had better start eating smaller amounts of high-fat foods and start focusing more on what you should be eating.

Over the years researchers have found that a diet that includes plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains (especially oatmeal and oat bran) legumes, fatty fish, walnuts and food fortified with plant stanols/stenols can help decrease cholesterol. Including these types of foods daily into your diet shouldn’t be a difficult task at all.

One sample day:

Breakfast: bowl of oatmeal, made with lowfat milk, topped with berries and walnuts

Lunch: small lentil soup, large tossed salad with grilled chicken, lowfat salad dressing

Snack: apple, lowfat plain yogurt

Dinner: broiled salmon, mixed green salad with olive oil and vinegar,  brown rice, broccoli steamed but still crisp

Snack: pineapple.

Remember, you can help prevent a rise in your cholesterol by being proactive. Start eating healthier, and get more active. Most important, start today.

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