9 Simple Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol
Healthy Heart, Long Life
Over 70 million American adults have high cholesterol, and only 1 in 3 people with high cholesterol has their condition under control. People with high cholesterol have twice the risk of developing heart disease as people with healthy levels. Learn more about what lifestyle changes you can make to get your cholesterol levels in-check.
Learn Your Family History
If high cholesterol or heart disease runs in your family, you may be at increased risk. Talk to your relatives to find out if anyone has struggled with high cholesterol. Also, find out if diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, or metabolic syndrome runs in your family. If you have a family history of any of these conditions, consult with your doctor about your cholesterol levels and the best lifestyle plan for you.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Even a small amount of extra weight can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Fortunately, if you’re overweight, you don’t have to lose it all – shedding just five to 10 percent of your body weight can cause a major reduction in cholesterol levels. You gain and lose weight based on whether you’re eating more or fewer calories than you burn each day. Find out what your daily calorie needs are by using this handy food plan calculator.
Even if you’re not overweight, exercise can still help reduce high cholesterol. It can also raise levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. The Surgeon General recommends at least two hours and 30 minutes of exercise a week, which is about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Even a small amount of physical activity can help. Try taking a 10-minute walk during your lunch break, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Check The Nutrition Facts
Read the labels on your food. Try not to eat more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. Cholesterol is found in egg yolks, whole milk, and organ meats. Also, try to limit the amount of saturated fats you eat. Saturated fats are found in cheese, fatty meats like bacon and chicken skin, and grain- and dairy-based desserts. Switch to lean, skinless meats and skim milk, and limit your dessert intake.
Eliminate Trans Fats
Trans fats may raise your “bad” cholesterol and lower your “good” cholesterol. They’re found in fried and deep-fried foods as well as in commercially-packaged baked goods, like cookies and crackers. Always check the ingredients list.
Substitute Your Oils
You don’t have to cut fats out of your diet entirely. Instead, switch to unsaturated fats, which may lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol levels. Instead of butter or mayonnaise on bread, try using olive oil. Peanut oil and canola oil are good options for cooking. Avoid oils that are solid or semisolid at room temperature, like coconut oil.
Eat Fruits, Nuts, and Vegetables
Nuts and avocados are good sources of unsaturated oils and make for healthy snacks. Fruits, vegetables and beans are rich in soluble fiber, which traps cholesterol and helps the body eliminate it. Try lentils, kidney beans, edamame (soy beans), dark leafy greens, pears, and apples. Edamame also contain isoflavones, which may lower cholesterol levels. Another cholesterol-busting nutrient is lycopene, which is found in tomatoes. Make sure that you get enough servings of vegetables each day.
Smoking is a major risk factor of high cholesterol and heart disease. Smoking tobacco causes the arteries to harden and leads to atherosclerosis. It also roughens the walls of the arteries, allowing cholesterol to stick more easily and begin to form plaques.
If you smoke, cut back or quit entirely. Try to avoid repeat exposure to secondhand smoke.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to get your cholesterol levels under control, you may need to take a cholesterol-lowering medication. The most common type of drug to lower cholesterol is called a statin. Statins block the pathway your body uses to create cholesterol from fats in your diet.
Other options are available, including bile acid sequestrants, nicotinic acid, fibric acid, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors. Talk to your doctor to find out if you would benefit from medication.
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