If you have high cholesterol or want to improve your heart health, it’s time to take action. High cholesterol raises your risk of heart attacks, stroke, and other dangerous cardiovascular events.
Fortunately, a study shows that making 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-reduction medicine.
Cholesterol: Understanding the Basics
Excess cholesterol in the body can be damaging and lead to health problems. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance essential for developing healthy cell tissues in the body, protecting nerves, and producing certain hormones.
Your liver makes all the cholesterol you need, but you also get cholesterol directly from your food, such as eggs, meats, and dairy products. Therefore, overeating these foods can cause high cholesterol. A proper diet is a primary step to reducing cholesterol within a month.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Hence, not all cholesterol is the bad kind.
There are two types of cholesterol, and not both are bad for you. 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 aids in the removal of that harmful cholesterol from your system. Therefore, you need to boost HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol for better health.
High Cholesterol Levels
If an individual’s cholesterol levels are high, they usually have too much LDL and too little HDL. High cholesterol can come from genetics, nutrition, lifestyle, and others.
For example, foods with more unsaturated fats can help the body absorb HDL, but those with saturated and trans fats raise LDL levels in the blood. Even so, one can manage these factors now to improve cholesterol levels.
The ideal cholesterol levels, as determined by the CDC, are:
- 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 than 150 mg/dL
6 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Cholesterol
Cholesterol is essential for many biological functions, but if uncontrolled, it can cause health problems. For example, people with high cholesterol are twice as likely to get heart disease as those with healthy cholesterol levels. Below are six simple steps to regulate your cholesterol levels.
Understand Your Family History
A family history of high cholesterol or cardiovascular diseases also increases your risk. Ask your relatives whether they have a medical history of high cholesterol.
Additionally, determine whether any of the conditions—diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, and metabolic syndrome—run in your family. Then, 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.
Consume Heart-healthy Foods
Many dietary recommendations exist to lower your cholesterol, but the Mediterranean and DASH diet plans are the simplest and most effective.
These nutritional plans include many heart-healthy food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seafood, and olive oil. Moreover, some common principles to follow are:
- Reduce the consumption of saturated fats, primarily found in red meat and full-fat dairy products. It can help to reduce your LDL cholesterol.
- Eliminate trans fats that raise overall cholesterol levels. These are found in fast foods, packaged chips, cookies and bakery items.
- Consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. However, they have no impact on LDL cholesterol but have extra heart-healthy advantages, such as lowering blood pressure. Omega-3-rich foods include walnuts, flaxseeds, herring, mackerel, salmon, and flaxseed oil.
- Eat more soluble fibre, which helps excrete cholesterol from our bodies. Soluble fibre-rich foods include oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots etc.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
In overweight individuals, 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 hard.
Exercising more often is linked with better cholesterol readings, even if you are a healthy weight. It can also help to improve your HDL cholesterol levels.
To get the most benefit, aim to do 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week. But even small amounts of activity can be helpful. For example, taking a 10-minute walk or using the stairs instead of the elevator are easy ways to get started. If you have not been active in the past, checking with your cardiologist before starting an exercise program is a good idea.
Quit Smoking and Drinking
As per research, smoking is a risk factor for high cholesterol and heart disease. That is because smoking tobacco causes atherosclerosis, which hardens the arteries.
Additionally, the walls of the arteries become rougher when someone smokes, making it easier for cholesterol to accumulate and form plaques.
Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of developing severe health issues such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes. Hence, you must avoid alcohol consumption for a healthy self.
The HealthifyMe Note
If you want to improve your health by reducing 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 integrate into your daily routine, such as low-cholesterol meals. You can talk to a HealthifyMe nutritionist to help create a low-cholesterol meal plan.