High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Medicines can help improve your cholesterol levels. But if you’d rather make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol first, try these five healthy changes.
5 cholesterol-lowering change
1. Eat heart-healthy foods
A few changes to your diet can lower cholesterol and improve your heart health:
– Reduce saturated fat
Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. By decreasing your intake of saturated fat, you can lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.
– Eliminate trans fats
Trans fats, which are sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, chips and cakes. Trans fats increase overall cholesterol levels.
– Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have no effect on LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart-healthy benefits, including lowering blood pressure. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flax seeds.
– Increase soluble fiber
Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found in foods like rolled oats, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.
– Add whey protein
Whey protein, found in dairy products, may be responsible for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy products. Studies have shown that whey protein taken in supplement form reduces both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, as well as blood pressure.
2. Exercise almost every day of the week and increase your physical activity.
Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, the “good” cholesterol. With your doctor’s approval, increase to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times per week or 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three times per week.
Adding physical activity, even in small intervals several times a day, can help you start losing weight. Think about it:
– Take a daily brisk walk during your lunch hour.
– Cycling to work
– Practice a favorite sport
3. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol levels. The beneficial effects are rapid:
– Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the spike caused by smoking.
– Within three months of quitting smoking, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve.
– Within a year of quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease is halved compared to that of a smoker.
4. Lose weight
Putting on a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. The small changes add up. If you drink sugary drinks, opt for tap water. If you crave sweets, try sorbets or candies with little or no fat, such as jelly beans.
Look for ways to fit more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther from your desk. Take walks during breaks at work. Try increasing standing activities, such as cooking or gardening.
5. Drink alcohol only in moderation
Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to higher levels of HDL cholesterol. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men over 65, and up to two drinks a day for men 65 and under. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems. Including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough…
Sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower cholesterol levels. If your doctor recommends a medicine to help lower your cholesterol, take it. Lifestyle changes can help you maintain a low dose of medication.