High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease & heart attacks. Medications can help improve your cholesterol. But if you had rather 1st make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol, try these five healthy changes.
These changes can improve their cholesterol-lowering effect, if you already take medications.
1. Eat Heart-Healthy Foods
Some changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol & improve your heart health:
- Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat & full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. Decreasing the consumption of your saturated fats can reduce 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 kinds of margarine & store-bought cookies, crackers & cakes. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels. The Food & Drug Administration has banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils by Jan. 1, 2021.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart-healthy benefits, including the reducing blood pressure. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts & flaxseeds.
- Increase soluble fiber. Into your bloodstream Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol. Soluble fiber is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples & pears.
- Add whey protein. The whey protein, that is found in dairy products, may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers both LDL cholesterol & total cholesterol as well as blood pressure.
2. Exercise on most days of the week & Increase your physical activity
Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help to raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. With your doctor’s OK, work up to at least half hour of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes 3 times a week.
Adding a physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight. Consider:
- During your lunch hour taking a brisk daily walk.
- Riding your bike to work.
- Playing a favorite sport.
To stay motivated, consider finding an exercise buddy or joining the exercise group.
3. Lose Weight
Carrying even several extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Small changes add up. If you drink sugary beverages regularly, switch to tap water. Pretzels or snack on air-popped popcorn but keep track of the calories. If you crave something try sherbet, sweet or candies with little or no fat, such as jelly beans.
Look for different ways to incorporate more activity into your routine on daily basis, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office. Take walks during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities, such as doing yard work or cooking.
4. Quit the Smoking
Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level. The benefits occur quickly:
- Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure & heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike
- Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation & lung function begin to improve
- Within a year of quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
5. Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation
Moderate the use of alcohol has been linked with the higher levels of HDL cholesterol but the benefits are not strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn’t already drink.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages & men older than age 65, & up to two drinks a day for men age 65 & younger.
Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure & strokes.
If lifestyle changes are not enough…
Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes are not enough to lower cholesterol levels. If your doctor recommends the medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed while continuing your lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you to keep your medication dose low.