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September is National Cholesterol Education Month
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Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD

Department of Nutritional Sciences

Penn State University

As September rolls in, it is timely to remind readers that it is National Cholesterol Education Month. So, it's time to make sure that your blood cholesterol (and LDL cholesterol) level is "in check". This is a good time to make sure that you are following diet and lifestyle recommendations to keep your cholesterol levels low.

High blood cholesterol increases risk of heart disease; the higher your cholesterol level is, the greater the risk. Consequently, lowering cholesterol levels that are elevated decreases your risk of heart disease.

It is important to know your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. For more information about healthy cholesterol levels, visit the National Lipid Association website!

A first step in lowering your cholesterol level is to follow a healthy dietary pattern. This diet is low in saturated fat and trans fat. It also meets energy and all nutrient needs. The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines has issued food-based dietary recommendations that meet contemporary dietary guidelines. Please visit and read Appendices 7 and 10.  

The 2013 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Guideline on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk recommends a dietary pattern that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nontropical vegetable oils, and nuts; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats. The healthy dietary pattern is reflected in the food-based recommendations in Appendices 7 and 10 in the URL above. 

Both of the Guidelines above recommend a diet that is low in saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in animal products such as full fat dairy products like cheese, cream, sour cream, ice cream and butter, as well as fatty meats. By using lower fat dairy products and lean protein sources, saturated fat can be reduced markedly in your diet. The Guidelines recommend using liquid vegetable oils and soft margarine in place of solid fats. It is recognized that the recent media frenzy about saturated fats being healthy is misguided and not reflective of science-based dietary guidance. So, please continue to follow a heart healthy diet that is low in saturated fat, which will reduce your LDL cholesterol and your risk of cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association offers another good resource about healthy cooking that will help you prepare heart healthy meals:

In closing, happy September and happy heart healthy eating to keep your blood cholesterol level "in check" not only during Cholesterol Education Month but throughout the year. 

Check out these low cholesterol recipes!

Zucchini and Onion Gratin 

Spinach and Pear Salad

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