When left untreated, high cholesterol is exceedingly harmful and can have a significant negative impact on a senior’s quality of life. High LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) levels can raise the risk of dementia and memory loss, in addition to heart attacks and heart disease. These are just a few of the reasons why every senior should have their cholesterol levels checked once or twice a year. In this article, we discuss a few tips on cholesterol management for seniors.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty molecule found in our blood that is naturally created by the liver. Cholesterol serves a range of roles in the body, such as creating vitamin D, hormones and cell membranes, but too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can cause problems.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein), also called “good” cholesterol as it can help prevent coronary heart disease, absorbs cholesterol from the body and takes it to the liver which flushes it from the body.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is also known as “bad” cholesterol as it can cause the production of plaque (fatty deposits) in arteries increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. LDL’s main role is to carry cholesterol to the cells that need it.
How does Cholesterol accumulate in our bodies?
Unhealthy eating and lack of activity are the main causes of high cholesterol.
Some examples of factors that can lead to high cholesterol include:
- High consumption of foods rich in saturated fats and Trans-fats. For example, fatty meats and pre-cooked meats, butter, milk, ice cream, coconut oil, palm oil, and most deep-fried fast food and bakery goods.
- Low intake of foods rich in healthy fats which raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels. For example, avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, cooking oils manufactured from plants or seeds, and seafood are all good sources of healthy fats.
- Low intake of fibre-rich foods. Foods high in dietary fibre, particularly soluble fibre, can help lower harmful (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood.
- Lack of regular physical activity and exercise.
- Being overweight or obese, with excess body fat around the midsection.
- Smoking and high alcohol consumption.
- Genetics, for example, a family history of high cholesterol or genetic disorders such as familial hypercholesterolemia.
- Afflictions such as kidney and liver diseases, hypothyroidism, diabetes, some medication and high blood pressure can also cause an increase in cholesterol.
How can seniors reduce cholesterol levels?
A healthy diet is one of the best strategies for lowering cholesterol levels in seniors. While the liver produces 75% of cholesterol naturally, the other 25% comes directly from the diet.
Healthy eating keeps the cholesterol levels low and seniors healthy. Here are a few tips for healthy eating for cholesterol management :
- Limiting highly processed meals such as takeout, baked goods, chocolate, chips, sweets, and sugary drinks and eating a wide variety of fresh and unprocessed foods will help maintain a healthy diet that provides essential nutrients to the body.
- Consuming healthy protein-rich foods (particularly fish and shellfish), legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts, and seeds plenty of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.
- Incorporating small amounts of eggs and lean poultry in daily meals.
- Only choose lean cuts of red meat.
- Limiting unflavored milk, yogurt, and cheese to once or twice a week.
- Incorporating high-fiber health foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, oats, and flax seeds in the meal plan.
- Choosing healthy fats and oils (for example olive avocado oils) that are low in fat.
- Flavouring recipes with herbs and spices instead of salt.
- Choosing the right portion size based on a physician or dietician’s advice and balancing them. A balanced plate should have 1/4 servings of healthy proteins, 1/4 servings of complete grains, and 1/2 servings of colorful veggies.
Tips on how to lower cholesterol
Increase physical activity. One of the best things you can do for your heart health is to engage in regular physical activity. Increasing your physical activity from 10 minutes to 30 to 45 minutes five or more days a week will help you manage your cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Seniors can get their doctor to recommend appropriate exercises and limit the time per day.
Quitting smoking. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and increases your cholesterol. A senior who smokes can try a combination of stop-smoking medications and therapy such as nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking.
Avoiding alcohol. There are no health benefits to drinking alcohol. Alcohol adds unnecessary kilojoules (energy) to the equation and has a low nutritional value. Alcohol is not a required or recommended component of a heart-healthy diet. If a senior does drink then they need to limit themselves to lower the risk of alcohol-related harm.
Medication. To help manage cholesterol levels and minimize the risk of a heart attack or stroke, seniors may need to take cholesterol-lowering medications (statins). The doctor will prescribe the medication if necessary.
Poor diet and lack of exercise, in addition to other factors such as genetics, can increase cholesterol levels among seniors, which can lead to many chronic problems. Prevention is the best cure. Adopting an active lifestyle and a healthy diet and avoiding smoking and alcohol can not only help seniors manage their cholesterol levels but also contribute to their overall health.
Want to Learn More?
ConsidraCare’s live-in caregivers for seniors are experienced professionals familiar with activities required to manage cholesterol. Our team of senior care experts can develop a detailed care plan including the daily tasks the caregiver needs to carry out to encourage the mental and physical well-being of your loved ones. Our platform tracks the activities carried out by the caregiver and keeps you informed in real-time.
Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 1-855-410-7971, and we will be happy to understand and help you with the care needs of a loved one.