The Cholesterol Problem: a Guide to the Best Foods to Improve Those Numbers

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THE LAB RESULTS CAME back from your annual physical, and your numbers aren’t good. You have too much blood cholesterol and other blood fats, one of the main drivers of the artery-clogging disease atherosclerosis. What changes can you make in your diet to turn those numbers around?

That’s one of the most common questions we (Duke University School of Medicine internist Vishal Rao and Johns Hopkins Medicine cardiologist Erin Michos) hear from our patients. Here’s a guide on the best foods to improve your cholesterol numbers. It is important to know that physicians recommend certain individuals already with heart disease or at high risk for it to take a preventive medication, such as a statin, even if their blood cholesterol levels aren’t that high. Even those already taking a statin can maximize the drug’s benefit by choosing a healthier lifestyle, such as eating better and increasing physical activity.

What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, is a condition with narrowing or blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. The reduced blood flow can occur due to a buildup of plaque within the walls of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. One of the main substances that contributes to formation of plaques is cholesterol. With time, plaque buildup can lead to less oxygen and nutrients delivered to the heart muscle. Common symptoms that people may feel include chest pain, shortness of breath and, ultimately, major cardiovascular events, such heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

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