Most people eat from a somewhat restricted dietary selection. They eat a traditional, customary, or habitual diet. In the United States, this customary fare has long included large amounts of animal fat in such foods as eggs, milk, butter, pork, and beef. Most people tolerate this diet extremely well. Nonetheless, large numbers of people face the problem of elevated levels of blood cholesterol. Elevated cholesterol levels may cause premature development of hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis, and the associated problems of heart attack and stroke.
Important Points in Treatment
The first line of treatment of elevated cholesterol is diet. The dietary changes needed include a long-term change in dietary habits. The change is relatively simple, but because it involves changing a habit, many people find it difficult to accommodate.
Dietary control of blood fats often requires two steps, weight control and change in fat intake. They are equally important and interdependent. The lowering of blood fats works more easily in patients at their ideal weight. Weight reduction is not considered further here because it is a lengthy topic.
Weight reduction results in a fall in blood cholesterol, but this fall is modest at best. Significant changes in blood fat levels require dietary manipulation as well. Careful changes in dietary intake of fats can lower blood fats in all patients except a few who have inherited high lipid abnormalities. The important information to know concerning your diet is total target calorie intake (to be determined by your physician) and maximum allowed daily fat intake, usually expressed in grams. The goal is to reduce your total daily intake of fat to 30% of your daily calories, and half the fat should be unsaturated. Knowing your calorie and fat allowance permits you to select a daily menu at home or acceptable restaurant foods.
To be successful, you also need one of the many pocket-sized guides to the calorie and fat content of prepared foods. The handier it is, the greater the likelihood you will have the guide with you when you need it most. Most prepared foods—packaged, frozen, or canned—list nutritional information on the labels. Among items listed are the fat content and the cholesterol content in the food.