High cholesterol can hurt your sex life. : True
. High cholesterol can slow pelvic blood flow, making it harder to get aroused and to have a satisfying romp in the hay. Both men and women are at risk. Cholesterol narrows blood vessels everywhere from the heart to the pelvis. In men, erection problems can even be an early warning sign of heart disease.
Happily, healthy habits to better your cholesterol levels may improve your libido, too. That means exercising, eating right, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Which is worse for your cholesterol?: A scoop of ice cream
. Just a small scoop of ice cream packs 11 grams of saturated fat — far more than in an egg or a steak. And the more saturated fat you eat, the higher your “bad” cholesterol can rise.
You still need to limit the cholesterol you eat, though. Less than 10 percent of your calories should come from saturated fats. Keep trans fats consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats. For example, replace foods that are higher in solid fats (e.g., red and processed meats), with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils. These include seafood, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products, as well as lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
If you’re thin, you don’t need to think about cholesterol.:False
. Even if you’re rail-thin and super-fit, your genes — and what you eat — can get you into trouble. That’s why it’s crucial to have your cholesterol checked regularly, starting in your 20s. You should know about any family members who’ve had heart problems, too. That plays a key role in how your doctor decides to handle your high cholesterol.
Why is LDL called “bad” cholesterol?: It clogs blood vessels.
If there’s too much LDL in your blood, it can collect on the walls of your arteries, forming plaque. This buildup narrows and stiffens the arteries — putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
In the past, guidelines focused on lowering LDL levels to specific “target” numbers. Now, lowering your cholesterol is just one part of an overall strategy for reducing your total risk for heart disease.
So why is HDL cholesterol “good”?: It sweeps up bad cholesterol. HDL does a clean-up job in your blood vessels. It carries excess cholesterol to the liver to be removed so it won’t clog your arteries. Aim for 60 mg/dL or higher, which will protect you against heart disease.
Why do men have cholesterol trouble earlier than women?: Hormones
. The hormone that causes a cholesterol “age gap” between men and women is estrogen. This female hormone lowers “bad” cholesterol and raises “good” cholesterol. It’s not enough to make up for bad eating habits, though, and after menopause women lose their advantage.
Which lifestyle changes are best for taming cholesterol?: Cut saturated fat, slim down
. Lifestyle changes can get your cholesterol levels moving in a better direction — and the most powerful combo is to to eat less saturated fat, avoid trans fat, and get to a healthy weight.
Quitting smoking can bump up your “good” cholesterol — and lighten the load on your heart in many other ways, too.
Drinking alcohol can help your cholesterol levels if you: Drink in moderation
. Alcohol can slightly raise your “good” cholesterol, but heart experts don’t get too excited about this approach. If you drink, they say the limit should be one to two drinks a day for men and one a day for women. Other types of alcohol — not just red wine — seem to boost good cholesterol.
Be careful. Drinking too much alcohol is bad for your blood pressure and can harm your health in other ways.
Which food label matters most if you’ve got high cholesterol?: Zero trans fat
. Trans fat sends both your good and bad cholesterol levels in the wrong direction. It’s used in baked goods, snack foods, shortening, margarine, and fried foods. Check the ingredients for “partially hydrogenated oil,” which is another name for trans fats.
What are triglycerides?: Fat particles
. Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in food and in your body. You use them for energy. When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores extra triglycerides in fat cells for a rainy day.
When you have a cholesterol test — called a lipid test — the lab will usually measure your triglycerides, too. A high level is linked to heart disease. Below 150 mg/dL is best.
Which workout is best for your cholesterol? : Circuit training
. Circuit training helps in two ways. It’s heart-pumping “cardio” exercise, and it works your muscles, called strength training. Each type of exercise improves cholesterol levels.
Cardio must be moderately intense to do the job — a brisk walk or slow jog. You should break a sweat and raise your heart rate. Yoga may be too slow unless you choose a vigorous workout, like power or “flow” yoga
High cholesterol leads to: Fatty skin growths. Fatty skin growths, called xanthomas, are the only outward sign of high cholesterol, and they’re pretty rare. What you can’t see is actually far more important: the slow clogging of your arteries that leads to a heart attack or stroke. If you do develop a xanthoma due to high cholesterol, bringing down your cholesterol can help shrink it.
Watching your cholesterol helps keep your mind sharp.: True
. A healthy cholesterol level is good for your brain as well as your heart. High cholesterol can lead to strokes, as well as mini-strokes you might not even notice. Over time these mini-strokes can cause memory and thinking problems that affect daily life.