Emergency room physician, Dr. Travis Stork of televisions "The Doctors Show" joined me to discuss high cholesterol and share examples of how we can cut our risk of heart disease by simply lowering our cholesterol with diet and exercise.
Dr. Travis Stork of TV's "The Doctor Show" – Image Courtesy of TheDoctorsTV.com
Candace: What is the correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease?
Dr. Travis Stork: "Well, they're inextricably linked because high cholesterol over time can deposit what we call plaques in your arteries; so the arteries that supply your heart and your brain for instance can be filled with these plaques. Over time as those plaques build up, you can develop blockages and that's what leads to heart attacks and strokes. That's why the earlier you pay attention to your cholesterol the better off you'll be."
Candace: How is it typically treated?
Dr. Stork: "Well, that's the beauty is this is National Cholesterol Education month and that's why I teamed up with General Mills to teach people about ways they can hopefully improve their cholesterol at home. But first of all if you have high cholesterol you probably don't know it because there's no symptom. So if you don't know what it is you should go to your doctor to get it checked, just like you get your height and weight checked when you go to the doctor, that way you know where you're at and if you have high cholesterol. There are things that you can do; foods that you can eat for instance and the list pretty broad but some examples are whole grain oats because whole grain oats have beta-glucan which is a soluble fiber, that essentially acts like a sponge in your gut and can help you naturally remove cholesterol. So whether it's oatmeal or a bowl of whole grain cereal like Cheerios, that can play a role.
Eating whole grain oats like Cheerios can naturally remove cholesterol – Image Courtesy of Cheerios.com
People often avoid nuts because they've heard that nuts are high in fat, but believe it or not if you can swap out, let's say your afternoon snack (something unhealthy) for a handful of mixed nuts that are unsalted. Those nuts are high in 'healthy fats;' fats that are good for your heart and your cholesterol profile. Same thing goes with if you're making a salad and you pour dressing on it that is creamy and loaded with saturated fat, you're taking something that could be good for you and making it potentially unhealthy, whereas using olive oil which is heart health and can improve your cholesterol profile, is a much better way to go, so these simple choices; simple swap out so to speak can really improve your health over the long run."
Candace: What types of questions should patients be asking their physicians?
Dr. Stork: "Well, one of the biggest things you can ask your physician is number one: what is your cholesterol, and if it's elevated? Likewise if your blood pressure's elevated these are all risk factors for heart disease. Ask your doctor 'what steps can I take between now and my next visit with you?' 'What steps can I take to improve my health?' Instead of asking 'what pills can I take?' Your doctor may prescribe medication and in some cases it's absolutely needed but either in addition to that; or your doctor might say you know what, let's try some of these remedies at home first. And let's try to get you being on a little more active- 30 minutes a day of walking with your family and let's see what happens to your cholesterol because sometimes people can make changes at home that go a long way towards putting their cholesterol into a healthier range."
Candace: Do you have any additional tips or information you'd like to share?
Dr. Stork: "This is just such an important topic. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in this country, so if you don't know anything about heart health and why we get heart disease, I encourage you to read as much about it as you can. We talk about it on our show 'The Doctors' all the time and our website- TheDoctorsTV.com also has resources. So educate yourself and take the steps now before it becomes a problem later."
Candace: Where can we go for additional information on heart disease?
Dr. Stork: "Well, like I said we have a lot of information on our website TheDoctorsTV.com and links to resources and as I've said before, I've talked about cholesterol quite a bit on our show and there are links there to those segments as well."