High cholesterol can make trouble for your health and even take your life. Your cholesterol score measures the fats in your blood. Unhealthy levels are linked to hardening of the arteries, which leads to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Your numbers include “bad” (LDL) and “good” (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides, a common fat in your body. Bring your cholesterol levels down by exercising and improving your daily diet.
Cholesterol: Get Tested
Unhealthy cholesterol numbers don’t typically cause any symptoms, so it’s important to get them checked. If you find out there’s a problem, diet, lifestyle changes, and medication can help. After age 20, your doctor will want to do a simple blood test every 4 to 6 years to make sure they’re in the healthy range. If your levels are off, take remedial action.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to control your cholesterol. You don’t have to run a marathon. Indeed, 40 minutes of walking, swimming, cycling, or dancing, 3 times a week will do the trick. If you’re short on time, you can break it into 10-minute increments throughout the day.
Don’t Be A Couch Potato
Sitting too long can be linked to obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It lowers “good” cholesterol, which helps get rid of the bad stuff, and raises triglyceride levels. This is true even if you exercise regularly. If you work at a desk, try to get up and move around every 30 minutes, or think about using a standing desk.
Cholesterol: Stop Smoking
It lowers your “good” cholesterol levels, which means you keep more of the bad stuff. And it’s linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Quitting can make your cholesterol levels better and help protect your arteries. If you don’t smoke, do your best to stay away from secondhand smoke.
Carrying too many pounds, especially around your belly, can raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower the good kind (HDL). But lose just 10% of your weight, and you could really help your numbers. Talk to your doctor about the best diet and exercise program to help you lose weight.
Stop Eating Saturated Fat
This comes from beef, pork, lamb, and full-fat dairy like butter, cream, milk, cheese, and yogurt, as well as tropical oils like palm and coconut. All those things can raise your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. It can help to trim visible fat from meats and go with skim milk and low-fat yogurt. If your LDL is high, you shouldn’t get more than 6% of your calories from saturated fat.
Stop Eating Trans Fat
Sometimes called “partially hydrogenated” fats or oils, you find them in fried foods, pastries, pizza dough, doughnuts, muffins, cookies, crackers, and many prepackaged foods. They raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower the good stuff. Check food labels to limit trans fats. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts.
Watch Your Fats Intake
They’re not all bad. Replace saturated and trans fats with healthier polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. You’ll find those fats in trout, salmon, herring, avocados, olives, walnuts, and liquid vegetable oils like safflower, canola, sunflower, and olive oil. But make sure no more than 30% of your daily calories come from any kind of fat.
There are 2 types: soluble, which dissolves in water, and insoluble, which doesn’t. Both are good for your heart health, but soluble fiber in particular helps lower your LDL levels. Add it to your diet with a bowl of oatmeal in the morning or with oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, or vegetables.
Cut Down On Alcohol
Overdoing it with alcohol can cause unhealthy cholesterol numbers. In particular, it can raise the level of fats in your blood. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women one. If you keep to that, you also might boost your HDL or “good” cholesterol numbers.
Take your medications as prescribed. On time and in the dosages indicated.