“I would be happy if I could tell you that it all depends on the food we eat,” Avenatti said. “But, unfortunately, that is really not the case … the food we eat contains cholesterol, but the majority of the cholesterol is running in our blood, and it’s … actually produced by our own body.”
The variability from one person to another depends more on genetics and how our body deals with cholesterol than dietary choices, Avenatti explained.
“We like to talk more about patterns just because no food is absolutely damaging. I think eating in moderation … is still the key,” she said.
What you eat the majority of the time is more important than a one-off burger or steak. Additionally, as long as you aren’t eating a diet that’s only fried food and processed food, you likely are OK.
“[One-off food choices are] really less impactful than what people think as long as you remain within a reasonable diet,” she said.
But for people with high triglycerides, dietary choices are extra important. According to Avenatti, high triglycerides, which are also measured when your cholesterol is checked, are more connected to the food that you eat.
“Processed food, fried food, butter, any sort of shortening, full-fat dairy, cheeses ― those are all things that are going to impact for sure your triglyceride levels, and that we see a lot more being directly impacted by diet,” she said.
High triglycerides can also be impacted by refined carbohydrates, Auguste added. “So, if you’re eating a lot of white bread, white pasta, crackers that have no fiber in them, you want to think about how to add fiber when you’re eating because that’s going to help you not have high triglycerides.”
This could mean mixing white beans in with your pasta or switching to a chickpea pasta or lentil pasta, Auguste added.
For some people, medication may also be necessary to lower cholesterol. As mentioned, genetics play a major role in your cholesterol levels, and altering your diet can only do so much
While many folks complain about the side effects of cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins, Avenatti stressed that there are other medical options out there. If you’ve been prescribed a medication for high cholesterol and either don’t take it or don’t like its effects, Avenatti said you should go to your doctor and ask why they prescribed the medication they did and inquire about alternatives.
Overall, following a heart-healthy lifestyle that’s complete with exercise, nutritious food, enough sleep and medicine management (if necessary) is important. Avenatti recommends the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 guidelines to help stay on top of your cardiovascular health. These guidelines combine a range of healthy lifestyle interventions, including diet, sleep, exercise, quitting tobacco use and more.
This post was previously published on HuffPost.