High cholesterol can be a precursor to many other serious health concerns, including heart disease and stroke. Whether you’ve been taking high cholesterol medication for a while or it’s a new diagnosis, consider how your lifestyle might be impacting your cholesterol levels.
Even though there are genetic factors that can play a role, there are things that can be done to manage your cholesterol levels. As you improve your cholesterol ranges, it reduces the risk of other types of heart disease.
Don’t underestimate the importance of lifestyle changes to boost your health! Here are a few heart-healthy tips you can follow to improve your health by raising your good (HDL) cholesterol and lowering your bad (LDL) cholesterol.
1. Lose The Extra Pounds
Being overweight is a factor that can affect your bad cholesterol levels. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about dropping the extra pounds.
You don’t need to lose a lot of weight to see improvements in your cholesterol levels. In fact, people who are overweight and drop 10 pounds can see an 8% improvement in LDL.
This effort is especially important for people with metabolic conditions. Skip the crash diets and stick with diet and exercise changes that are sustainable on a daily basis. A health goal is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week through calorie management and physical activity.
2. Choose Heart-Healthy Fruits and Veggies
There is a connection between dietary factors and cholesterol levels. Therefore, increasing your fiber intake is an effective way to satisfy your hunger and also limit the unhealthy fats you are consuming.
Manage your calorie intake by choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meal plans. Not only are these foods helpful for weight loss, but brightly colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants that protect the heart.
3. Avoid Bad Fats
Trans fats are highly processed to make them more stable, but this processing means that the body handles them differently compared to other types of fats.
Common trans fats to avoid include:
- Fried fast food
- Microwave popcorn
- Baked goods and pastries
- Shortening and margarine
You can use healthier oil supplements when cooking. For example, extra virgin olive oil is great for cooking. This “good” fat is less processed and has heart-protecting antioxidants.
4. Move Your Body
Physical activity is another habit that can help with weight loss. Not only is exercise helpful for weight loss because it burns calories, but it also decreases harmful bad cholesterol in the body.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Or, if you are doing vigorous exercise, then 75 minutes per week is the minimum recommendation. Ideally, exercise should be spread throughout the week.
5. Stress Management Is Key
Researchers have found that chronic stress can result in an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol. If you are always stressed, it could impact your cholesterol levels. Stress affects digestion, organ function, and other processes that are happening in the body.
Exercise is one method for lowering stress. Also, consider other options such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques.
6. Stop Smoking
Lighting up a cigarette means that you are changing the way your body manages cholesterol. The tar in tobacco makes it difficult for cholesterol from vessel walls to return to the liver, which causes increased cholesterol levels in the blood stream.
If possible, give up smoking to improve your health and reduce bad cholesterol. Smoking cessation can have a variety of other health benefits as well.
7. Moderate Alcohol Consumption
There is a major health debate about whether alcohol consumption helps or hurts the heart. Some doctors believe that moderate consumption of alcoholic drinks, specifically red wine, can lower the risk of heart disease and increase good (HDL) cholesterol.
But the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control disagree. Neither organization endorses drinking for heart health.
If you choose to drink, make sure you do so in moderation. Too much alcohol can affect liver health, which makes it harder for the body to manage cholesterol levels. The CDC recommends no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men.
8. Consider Health Supplements
Evidence shows that certain supplements might have a positive benefit on heart health. However, additional research is needed to verify these claims. Supplements that might potentially help with cholesterol management include:
- Fish Oil: These supplements are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These omega-3s could help to reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels.
- Coenzyme Q10: This food chemical affects cellular energy and can also have an impact on improving cholesterol levels.
- Fiber: Soluble fiber supplements, such as psyllium can be beneficial for managing cholesterol levels. Fiber supplementation is a simple way to improve your diet each day, with a powder you can mix into a glass of water or juice.
9. Add Spice
Not only do spices make your food more exciting and satisfy your taste buds, but spices can also positively impact cholesterol levels.
Look for ways to incorporate many different flavors in your meals, such as black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, curcumin, garlic, and coriander.
How Is Your Lifestyle Affecting Cholesterol Levels?
The bottom line is that the seemingly small decisions you make each day have an undeniable effect. Not only are these habits affecting your cholesterol levels, but they also influence your heart health and overall health.
When you have imbalanced cholesterol levels, you should consider both medications and lifestyle interventions. In addition, changing your daily habits can help now and in the future, making it possible for you to enjoy a thriving, healthy lifestyle.
Talk to a Primary Care Physician About Heart Health
According to the CDC, it’s a good idea to check your cholesterol levels every 5 years – or more often if you have a high risk of heart disease. Your doctor can recommend the ideal testing based on your unique health profile.
If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, you should start making lifestyle changes to bring these levels back into healthy ranges. Daily habits matter!
Additionally, some people need to take medication. Make sure you maintain consistent communication with your doctor to determine optimal dosage as your cholesterol levels improve with lifestyle changes.
For more information and a personal health analysis, schedule a consultation with the experts at Colorado Primary Health Care. We are a family-focused health clinic providing a range of health services for people of all ages. You can fill out our online form for an appointment request or call us at (303) 703-8583.