If you have high cholesterol or want to improve your heart health, now is the time to act. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other dangerous cardiovascular events.
Fortunately, a study shows that specific lifestyle changes can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the rate of coronary heart disease events. You can do this by staying active, cutting saturated fat from your diet, quitting smoking, and taking cholesterol-lowering medication.
Cholesterol: understanding the basics
Excess cholesterol in the body can be harmful and lead to health problems. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is essential for the development of healthy cell tissues in the body, the protection of nerves and the production of certain hormones.
Your liver makes all the cholesterol you need, but you also get cholesterol directly from your diet, such as eggs, meat, and dairy. Therefore, overeating these foods can lead to high cholesterol. A good diet is an essential step to reduce cholesterol in a month.
Types of cholesterol
Cholesterol is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Therefore, not all cholesterol is bad.
There are two types of cholesterol, and both are not unhealthy. For example, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol,” can form plaque in your arteries, increasing your risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, vascular problems, and other conditions.
However, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good cholesterol,” actually helps flush this harmful cholesterol out of your system. Therefore, you need to raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol for better health.
High cholesterol levels
If an individual’s cholesterol level is high, they usually have too much LDL and too little HDL. High cholesterol can stem from genetics, nutrition, lifestyle, and other factors.
For example, foods with more unsaturated fats may help the body absorb HDL, but those with saturated and trans fats increase LDL levels in the blood. Even so, one can manage these factors now to improve cholesterol levels.
Ideal cholesterol levels, as determined by the CDCare:
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl)
- HDL cholesterol: more than 60 mg/dl
- LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dl
- Triglycerides: No more than 150 mg/dL
6 easy ways to lower your cholesterol
Cholesterol is essential for many biological functions, but if left unchecked it can cause health problems. For example, people with high cholesterol levels are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those with healthy cholesterol levels. Here are six simple steps to regulate your cholesterol levels.
Understand your family history
A family history of high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease also increases your risk. Ask your relatives if they have a medical history of high cholesterol.
Also, find out if any of the conditions—diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, and metabolic syndrome—run in your family. Next, discuss your cholesterol levels with your doctor or an expert nutritionist. They can advise you on the best lifestyle choices if you have a family history of these diseases.
Eat heart-healthy foods
Many dietary recommendations exist to lower your cholesterol, but the Mediterranean and DASH Diet blueprints are the simplest and most effective.
These nutrition plans include many heart-healthy food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seafood, and olive oil. In addition, some common principles to follow are:
- Reduce the consumption of saturated fats, which are mainly found in red meat and whole dairy products. This can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.
- Eliminate trans fats which increase overall cholesterol levels. They are found in fast foods, packaged chips, cookies, and baked goods.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. However, they have no impact on LDL cholesterol, but have additional benefits for heart health, such as lowering blood pressure. Foods rich in omega-3s include walnuts, flaxseeds, herring, mackerel, salmon, and flaxseed oil.
- Eat more soluble fiber, which helps excrete cholesterol from our body. Foods high in soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, etc.
Maintain a healthy weight
In overweight people, losing just 5-10% of their body weight can significantly lower their cholesterol levels. However, if someone is already switching to a DASH or Mediterranean diet and exercising regularly, losing a significant amount of weight is not that difficult.
Exercising more often is linked to better cholesterol levels, even if you are at a healthy weight. It may also help improve your HDL cholesterol levels.
To get the most out of it, aim for 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week. But even small amounts of activity can be helpful. For example, walking 10 minutes or using the stairs instead of the elevator are easy ways to start. If you haven’t been active in the past, consult your cardiologist before beginning an exercise program.
Quit smoking and drinking
According to research, smoking is a risk factor for high cholesterol and heart disease. Indeed, smoking tobacco causes atherosclerosis, which hardens the arteries.
In addition, the walls of the arteries become rougher when someone smokes, which facilitates the accumulation of cholesterol and the formation of plaques.
Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of developing serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. Therefore, you must avoid alcohol consumption to be healthy.
Note from The Fitness Freak
If you want to improve your health by lowering your cholesterol, you can help yourself by following a DASH or Mediterranean diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and maintaining an ideal weight. To lower your cholesterol without medication, try to find healthy lifestyle choices that you can incorporate into your daily routine, such as low-cholesterol meals. You can talk to a HealthifyMe nutritionist to help you create a low cholesterol meal plan.