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Working With a Dietitian to Lower Cholesterol

Posted by on Dec. 9, 2010 at 10:08 PM
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Working With a Dietitian to Lower Cholesterol

You've been told to eat healthily and avoid high cholesterol foods to lower cholesterol levels, but how do you know what's healthy and what's not? A nutritionist or dietician can help.

To lower cholesterol levels through dietary changes, you'll need to learn how to restrict calories, fats, and cholesterol, and boost your fiber intake. If you're struggling to understand what makes a diet healthy — and how to make healthy eating a lifestyle, not a temporary fix — a nutritionist or registered dietitian can help.

Dietician or Nutritionist to Lower Cholesterol

"It is critical to meet not only with a nutritionist, but with a registered dietitian who is highly trained in the science of nutrition along with the physiology of the body," says Janice Baker, RD, a registered dietitian in San Diego, Calif., who specializes in cardiac risk reduction. A registered dietitian is certified and trained in using diet to manage or prevent health problems, but a nutritionist may not be.

A dietitian can help you spot unhealthy foods, and stick to healthy choices without spending a fortune on groceries.

"Food labels and recommendations can be very confusing. A registered dietitian can help you to sort through all of the confusion and help make choosing foods much easier, and usually save you a lot of money in food costs as well," says Baker.

High Cholesterol: Gaining Diet Savvy
Diet is one of the primary treatments for high cholesterol, and one of the main preventive treatments for heart disease and heart attack.

"By increasing the amount of plant foods you eat, especially good fiber sources, and lowering intake of trans and saturated fats as well as total calories, you can reprogram your body to improve cholesterol levels — specifically the dangerous LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides," says Baker. And by reducing your calorie intake, she adds, you'll lose weight and fat in the belly area, which can really lower cholesterol.

High Cholesterol: An Appointment for Better Health

To find a registered dietitian or nutritionist in your area, ask your doctor or search the American Dietetic Association Web site. Online sources for nutritional counseling can be helpful, but at least a few initial face-to-face meetings with a dietitian are a good idea to get you started down the right path.

"I always recommend an in-person meeting," says Baker. "However, for convenience, time, and cost, online services can also work, but these can vary in quality. Look for a registered dietitian, and be wary if any specific products or supplements are being overtly promoted."

Some health insurance plans may cover a certain number of visits with a registered dietitian as part of your treatment and prevention for heart disease. Others won't cover them or will only cover them for certain conditions. You'll need to contact your health insurance company to find out your specific coverage.

High Cholesterol: Setting Goals for Your Diet
Ultimately, your goal should be to make healthy food choices at every meal, not just go on a temporary diet when you feel like you need to lose a few pounds. How many visits you’ll need with a dietitian will be determined by your starting point and your progress.

"If you have long-standing less than healthful food habits, it may take several visits to work on changes that will keep you well for the long term," Baker says.

By learning how to make healthy eating part of your daily life, you're taking control of your own well-being. Simple substitutions and changes in your diet can restore your health as you lower your cholesterol — and your heart disease risk.

Last Updated: 06/17/2009
This section created and produced exclusively by the editorial staff of © 2010; all rights reserved.

by on Dec. 9, 2010 at 10:08 PM
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