Cholesterol & You: ‘Ask the Expert’ with Amy Sullivan, APRN

Amy Sullivan is a registered advanced practice nurse and certified nurse practitioner. She graduated from the University of Arkansas Little Rock with a bachelor of science in nursing and the University of Central Arkansas with her master’s degree in nursing in 2013. Amy joined ARcare in February 2014.

Why is it important to have good cholesterol?

At first blush, cholesterol seems to be a dirty word, especially given how it’s talked about in the media. But the truth is that cholesterol is produced naturally by the body and it’s not all necessarily bad or good. There are several elements that go into the dynamics for determining healthy and unhealthy cholesterol.

Cholesterol is produced by our liver and is also absorbed by the body through a variety of foods we eat and drink. It is carried throughout the body by lipoproteins. You’ve probably heard of these, normally referred to as LDL (low density lipoprotein, often coined ‘bad cholesterol) and HDL (high density lipoprotein, ‘good’ cholesterol).

The differences between LDL and HDL cholesterol

LDL is considering a ‘bad’ type of cholesterol because it can cause a build-up of plaque leading to hardening of the arteries. This can have the effect of narrowing vital blood vessels, which in turn reduces the flow of oxygen in the blood. And these effects may lead to blood clots which can ultimately cause a stroke or heart attack. So there is good reason to monitor LDL levels. We ideally want to keep LDL levels below 100 mg/dl. That may vary a little in some individuals, but this is the standard we shoot for.

By the same token, the high density variety (HDL) of cholesterol is critical in keeping your cardiovascular system functioning in top form. HDL also helps remove LDL from the artery walls, keeping your blood paths clear of plaque and acting as a good preventative from stroke and heart attack.

Healthy Foods to Improve Your Cholesterol Levels

Foods, along with exercise and sufficient sleep, can go a long way to improving our cholesterol levels. Here is some food for thought when trying to improve those HDL numbers…

  • Oatmeal (steel-cut is best)
  • Nuts (including walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios and hazelnuts)
  • Bananas
  • Fish (including mackerel, trout, salmon and halibut)
  • Avocados (Really! A source of ‘good’ fat has shown to lower LDL levels)
  • Whole grains
  • Beans & legumes
  • High fruit fiber (including apples, pears and prunes)
  • Red wine – in moderate doses – has been shown to increase HDL levels. Salute!

Here at ARcare, our primary care providers can help you monitor your cholesterol levels as well as advising you on dietary needs that can help. Should you need medicine to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, our doctors and nurse practitioners can carefully monitor you, coming up with a plan that’s tailored for your medical needs. We want you to be aware of your health and to help you in every way we can to take care of it. We’re here for you.

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