High cholesterol raises your chances of developing heart disease and having a heart attack. Medications can aid in the improvement of your cholesterol. If you’d rather make lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol first, try these five suggestions.
If you already take cholesterol-lowering medications, these changes may help them work better.
1. Consume heart-healthy foods
A few dietary changes can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health:
Cut back on saturated fats. Saturated fats, which are mostly found in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. Reduce your consumption of saturated fats to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Trans fats should be avoided.
Trans fats, also known as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on food labels, are commonly found in margarine and store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes. They also increase total cholesterol levels.
Consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
LDL cholesterol is unaffected by omega-3 fatty acids. They do, however, have other heart-healthy benefits, such as lowering blood pressure. Salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, and flaxseeds are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Increase your soluble fiber intake.
Soluble fiber can help to reduce cholesterol absorption in the bloodstream. Oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears contain soluble fiber.
Whey protein should be added.
Many of the health benefits attributed to dairy may be attributed to whey protein, which is found in dairy products. Whey protein taken as a supplement has been shown in studies to lower LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Do eggs raise cholesterol?
Chicken eggs are a low-cost protein and nutrient source. They’re also high in cholesterol by nature. However, the cholesterol in eggs does not appear to raise cholesterol levels in the same way that trans fats and saturated fats do.
Experts now advise eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible, aiming for less than 300 milligrams (mg) per day.
One large egg contains approximately 186 mg of cholesterol, the majority of which is found in the yolk.
According to some studies, eating up to one egg per day may be an acceptable choice if your diet contains little other cholesterol.
Use only the egg whites if you like eggs but don’t want the cholesterol. Egg whites have no cholesterol but are high in protein. You can also use egg whites to make cholesterol-free egg substitutes.
2. Exercise on most days of the week and increase your physical activity
Exercise can help lower cholesterol.
Moderate physical activity can help raise HDL cholesterol or “good” cholesterol. Work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times per week, or 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three times per week, with your doctor’s approval.
Increasing your physical activity, even in short bursts several times per day can help you start losing weight like:
Taking a daily brisk walk
Does walking reduce cholesterol?
Moving your body burns calories while also providing other health benefits. You should walk at a sustainable pace and duration, which will differ for each individual.
A brisk 30-minute walk three times per week will raise your “good” cholesterol (HDL) while decreasing your “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Even if you don’t lose weight, this amount of exercise has been shown to improve your cholesterol levels. If losing weight is one of your goals, losing a few pounds can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels even more.
3. Give up smoking
Quitting smoking raises your HDL cholesterol. The advantages are immediate:
Your blood pressure and heart rate will return to normal within 20 minutes of quitting. Your blood circulation and lung function will improve within three months of quitting. After a year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
4. Lose weight
Even a few extra pounds can contribute to high cholesterol. Small adjustments add up. Switch to tap water if you consume sugary beverages. Snack on air-popped popcorn or pretzels, but keep the calories in mind. If you’re craving something sweet, try sherbet or low-fat candies like jelly beans.
Find ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away from your office. Take walks during your work breaks. Increase your standing activities, such as cooking or yard work.
5. Consume alcohol in moderation
Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to higher levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren’t compelling enough to recommend alcohol to anyone who doesn’t already consume it. If you must consume alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means no more than one drink per day for women of all ages and men over the age of 65, and no more than two drinks per day for men 65 and younger. Alcoholism can cause serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes.
If a change in lifestyle isn’t enough…
Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes are insufficient to reduce cholesterol levels. If your doctor prescribes cholesterol-lowering medication, take it as directed while continuing your lifestyle changes. You can reduce your medication dose by making lifestyle changes.