The Top 5 Lifestyle Tips To Lower Cholesterol

The Top 5 Lifestyle Tips To Lower Cholesterol

First off, what is cholesterol and why do you need to lower it? Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that the body uses to build healthy cells. If that’s the case, why is it so dangerous and do you really need to lower it? Yes and no, because not all cholesterol is created equal. 

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol can form plaque in the arteries and increase the risk of atherosclerosis. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol can help remove bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. If you have high cholesterol, you have a higher risk of heart disease and heart attack. It also means that you have too much LDL and not enough HDL, but there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your LDL and increase your HDL.

Eat Healthier

This is such a broad concept, right? It can be difficult to know which healthy foods to eat to benefit your situation. Regarding heart health, a few simple dietary changes can reduce cholesterol

  • Avoid trans fats: These fats are common in margarines, store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes. On ingredients lists, you may see hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, both of which are trans fats that raise total cholesterol levels.
  • Increase soluble fiber intake: Soluble fiber essentially grabs cholesterol in the gut before it gets into the bloodstream, a process that helps lower LDL levels. It exists in oats, barley, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, whole grains, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, walnuts, and flaxseeds. 
  • Reduce intake of saturated fats: Saturated fats are primarily found in full-fat dairy products and red meats. Much like trans fats, saturated fats can raise bad LDL cholesterol levels
  • Eat more omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3s don’t affect LDL levels, but they do offer other heart-healthy benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and boosting HDL levels. Foods that are rich in omega-3s include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, avocados, salmon, and cod.

Quit Smoking

When you quit smoking, you can help raise HDL cholesterol levels and ultimately reduce your risk of lung cancer and lung disease. The chemicals in cigarettes damage your blood vessels and accelerate the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. Studies have shown that within 20 minutes of quitting, blood pressure and heart rate recover from the spike that comes from cigarettes. Within three months of quitting, both lung function and blood circulation start to improve. Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is 50% less than someone who smokes. 

Lose Weight

If you carry a few extra pounds, you have a higher risk of high cholesterol. One study found that losing 5%-10% of total body weight for overweight or obese people, respectively, could be enough to improve cholesterol levels. It can be difficult to lose weight, especially if you have struggled with weight loss in the past. Consider small changes to start, rather than committing to an all-or-nothing diet. Start by drinking water or seltzer water in place of sugary beverages and sodas. If you crave sweets, opt for fresh fruit instead of processed boxes or bags of candy. Choose plain, air-popped popcorn instead of bags of flavored chips. Finally, look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily life. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther away from the office to walk more. Walk on your lunch breaks instead of sitting down the entire time. 

Prepare Foods A Little Differently

Sometimes it’s not what you eat, but how you eat it. If you can change what you buy in the grocery store, you can change how you prepare your meals. Food prep is just as important as food choices if you want to lower your LDL cholesterol levels. Instead of frying, breading, or cooking food in lots of butter, consider boiling, roasting, baking, poaching, or broiling as alternative cooking methods. Additionally, trim the fat and remove the skin off meat, poultry, or fish. That helps you get the protein you need without the need of excess fat intake. 

Exercise Most Days Of The Week

When you exercise at a  moderate-intense level, you can help raise HDL cholesterol. As long as you are able to exercise in your current condition, aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, five times per week. If you engage in high-intensity workouts, 20 minutes of exercise three times per week is sufficient, according to health experts. Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day, can help you lose weight. Consider the following: 

  • Riding your bike to work (provided you live within a feasible riding distance)
  • Playing a sport you love, such as a community sport (soccer, pickleball, basketball, etc.)
  • Taking a brisk walk during your lunch break



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