Lifestyle changes can help improve your cholesterol and boost the cholesterol-lowering power of medications.
High cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Medicines can help improve your cholesterol. But if you’d rather change your lifestyle to improve your cholesterol first, try these five healthy changes.
If you are already taking medication, these changes may improve its cholesterol-lowering effect.
- 1 1. Eat heart-healthy foods
- 2 2. Exercise most days of the week and increase your physical activity
- 3 3. Quit smoking
- 4 4. Lose weight
- 5 5. Drink alcohol only in moderation
- 6 If lifestyle changes aren’t enough…
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 total cholesterol levels. Lowering your saturated fat intake can lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.
Eliminate trans fats
Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes. Trans fatty acids increase overall cholesterol levels.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids do not affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other benefits for the heart, 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 the blood. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oatmeal, beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.
Add whey protein
Whey protein, found in dairy products, may account for much of the health benefits attributed to dairy products. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers both LDL and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure.
2. Exercise most days of the week and increase your physical activity
Physical exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three times a week.
Adding physical activity, even at short intervals, several times a day can help you start losing weight. Think about it:
Take a daily brisk walk during lunch time
Commuting to work by bike
Practice a favorite sport
To stay motivated, consider finding an exercise buddy or joining a group.
3. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol levels. The benefits are felt quickly in:
- 20 minutes after quitting smoking, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the spike caused by the cigarette.
- three months after quitting smoking, blood circulation and lung function begin to improve.
- 12 months after quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker
4. Lose weight
Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to increased cholesterol. The little changes add up. If you drink sugary drinks, switch to tap water. If you’re craving something sweet, try sorbets or candies with little or no fat, such as sugared almonds.
Look for ways to fit more activity into your daily routine, such as taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office. 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 associated with higher HDL cholesterol levels. But the benefits aren’t great enough to recommend alcohol to those who don’t already drink it.
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 strokes.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough…
Sometimes a healthy lifestyle change isn’t enough to lower cholesterol levels. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed while continuing to make lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you maintain a low dose of medication.
* At press health we strive to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice. [HighProtein-Foods.com]