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A little TLC goes a long way toward reducing high cholesterol
Aug 24, 2006 - 3:59:37 AM

If you're one of the nearly 65 million Americans with high blood cholesterol, National Cholesterol Education Month (September) is a perfect time to read a new publication designed to help you make the lifestyle changes needed to reduce cholesterol and, with it, your risk for heart disease.

Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health details a three-part program of diet, physical activity, and weight management designed to bring cholesterol levels down.

Lifestyle is crucial for lowering cholesterol but it's not enough to tell people it's important – you have to help them do it. This guide offers a set of tools to help people get started and to embrace a heart-healthier way of living, said the NHLBI's James Cleeman, M.D., coordinator of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP).

The 80-page easy-to-read booklet is based on the NCEP's guidelines on cholesterol management. These guidelines emphasize the importance of therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) -- intensive use of heart-healthy eating, physical activity, and weight control – for cholesterol management. TLC is the cornerstone of treatment, according to Cleeman, even if someone also has to take a cholesterol-lowering medication.

As the booklet explains, following a TLC diet means reducing saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in order to lower LDL, the bad cholesterol. How do you know how low your LDL cholesterol should be? Your goal LDL level is determined by your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack. To help you determine your risk, the new guide includes the NCEP 10-year coronary heart disease risk calculator. Once your LDL goal is determined, you and your doctor can use the new booklet to implement TLC and reach your goal.

To help reduce saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol, the guide offers tips on choosing and preparing low fat meals, selecting healthy snacks, reading nutrition labels, and dining out while staying on the TLC diet. The booklet includes sample menus for different types of cuisine (traditional American, Southern, Mexican-American, and Asian).

The LDL-lowering power of the TLC diet can be boosted by adding soluble fiber and plant stanols and sterols, substances derived from plants that help block cholesterol absorption. The guide suggests ways to add fiber to the diet and discusses the value of plant stanols and sterols and which food products have them.

In addition to what you eat, how much you move is also important for heart health. Lack of physical activity is an important risk factor for heart disease. Inactivity contributes to weight gain and raises LDL as well as lowering HDL, the good cholesterol. The booklet offers a step-by-step program to get people moving and includes a chart of calories burned in common activities.

Overweight and obesity increase a person's LDL level and can also raise triglycerides and lower HDL. To help people lose those extra pounds, the guide includes calorie-cutting strategies, ideas for substituting lower calorie foods for high calorie favorites, and a handy chart of portion sizes based on NHLBI's Portion Distortion Interactive Quiz:

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