Ohio State offers health screenings several times throughout the year for employees. This is the day you are measured and weighed, blood pressure is checked and fingers are pricked to determine cholesterol and A1C levels.
Maybe your place of employment offers something similar or for you. This may be part of your annual well check-up with your primary care provider. For me, this just happened to be last week.
After all the numbers are tabulated, the health professionals share which values are in the “ideal” range. Do you have a number that you wish was different? I think one of the best ways to make a change that will stick is to be specific and keep it simple. Here are a few tips to consider. I encourage you to pick just one to commit to and strive to make a long-term change.
Quit smoking: According to the National Institute of Health, cholesterol is a concern when excess levels in our blood stick to the walls of our arteries and either narrow or completely block them. Cholesterol is transported throughout our body on lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) can build up when there are too many of them and form plaque. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are considered good because they collect cholesterol so it can be removed from the body. Smoking lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol and raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
I don’t even want to begin to suggest this is a quick and easy change. But there are definite advantages to your health when you do not smoke. If you are ready to quit, call the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-784-8669.
Switch from full-fat dairy products to low-fat: Eating foods high in saturated fat also contributes to high cholesterol. A goal could be to reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat. This does not mean you need to completely cut dairy from your diet. When drinking milk, choose low fat, ideally 1% or skim milk rather than “whole” or 3.25% milk. Drinking an 8-ounce glass of whole milk contains about 5 grams of saturated fat – as much as consuming five strips of bacon. Also shop for low-fat cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese. Save butter and ice cream for special occasions.
Reduce portion size of red meat: Maybe full fat dairy products are not a big part of your diet. How much processed or high fat red meat do you consume? Watching portion sizes can make a big difference. A serving of meat is the size of your palm and should be a lean, whole cut of meat more often than ground beef, brats or sausage. Try eating a smaller serving of meat and filling that empty space on your plate with a favorite non-starchy veggie like green beans, asparagus, carrots, squash, peppers or greens.
Walk at least three days a week: Physical activity is a great way to lower both cholesterol and A1C. I have seen this myself. When I started running or going to fitness classes at the gym, my HDL levels went up significantly. If physical activity is non-existent in your daily life, make this week different. Walking is a great way to start. Every minute and every step make a difference and add up. The walking paths at Lake Park are beautiful this time of year. If you’d rather walk on a track inside, Kids America offers Coffee Walk and Talk from 8 to 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Cost is just $1 for seniors older than 60 and $2 for other guests.
Today I’ll leave you with this quote from Julia Child: “Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.”
Emily Marrison is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 740-622-2265.