High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Medications can help improve cholesterol levels. But if you’d rather change your lifestyle first to improve your cholesterol, try these five healthy changes.
Cholesterol lowering change
1. Eat heart healthy foods
Several changes in your diet can lower cholesterol and improve heart health:
– Reduce saturated fats
Saturated fats, which are found mainly in red meat and whole milk products, increase your total cholesterol. By reducing your saturated fat intake, you can lower cholesterol levels in low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are “bad” cholesterol.
– Remove trans fats
Trans fats, sometimes referred to on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”, are often used in margarines and biscuits, chips and commercial cakes. Trans fats increase total 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 health 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 such as oats, 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 as supplements lowers 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. Mild physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, “good” cholesterol. With your doctor’s consent, increase at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or 20 minutes of intense aerobic activity three times a week.
Adding physical activity, albeit at small intervals several times a day, can help you start losing weight. Think about it:
– Take a quick daily walk during lunch.
– To work on a bike
– Enjoy your favorite sport
3. Stop smoking
Quitting smoking improves HDL cholesterol levels. The beneficial effects are fast:
– Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your blood pressure and heart rate will recover from the surge caused by smoking.
– Within three months of stopping smoking, your blood circulation and lung function will start to improve.
– Within one year of quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
4. Lose weight
Gaining a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. 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 jellies.
Look for ways to incorporate more activities into your daily routine, such as using stairs instead of an elevator or parking away from your desk. Take a walk during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities, such as cooking or gardening.
5. Drink alcohol only in moderation
Mild alcohol consumption is associated with higher HDL cholesterol levels. If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. For healthy adults, this 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 under 65. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems. Including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.
If lifestyle changes are not enough …
Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to lower cholesterol. If your doctor recommends a cholesterol-lowering medicine, take it. Lifestyle changes can help you keep your medication low.
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