It seems most of us get this news at one time or another – you need to lower your cholesterol. With that news comes a requirement to change both your diet and your lifestyle so you can not only lower your cholesterol but also reduce your risk of heart disease. Some people mistakenly believe taking a prescribed cholesterol drug negates the need for them to change either lifestyle or diet, but they are wrong.
Webmd.com offers some simple steps which can help you keep your cholesterol levels under control. Give them a try.
Good and Bad Cholesterol: Our bodies must have a small amount of cholesterol in order to function properly. We may get too much saturated fat and cholesterol in our diet, both of which raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in our arteries, leading to heart disease. HDL (good) cholesterol helps clear bad cholesterol from our blood. The goal is to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol, starting with your diet.
Portion Control – Lend a Hand: Many Americans supersize their meals, getting portions that are twice the recommended size for good health. That can contribute to both weight gain and high cholesterol. For a simple way to practice portion control – use your hand. One serving of meat or fish is about what fits in the palm of your hand. One serving of fresh fruit is about the size of your fist. And a serving of cooked vegetables, rice or pasta should fit in your cupped hand.
Serve up Heart-Healthy Food: Load your plate with five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. The antioxidants in these foods may prevent the benefit; or it may be that when we eat more fruits and veggies, we eat less fatty foods. No matter which, you will also help lower your blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight. Foods enriched with plant sterols, such as some margarine spreads, yogurts and other foods, can also help lower LDL cholesterol.
Look to the Sea: Have fish on your menu twice a week. Fish is low in saturated fat and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. They may also help lower cholesterol, slowing the growth of plaque in arteries. Go for fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, trout and tuna. Just do not drop the fillets in the deep fryer as that will undo the health benefits.
Begin Your Day with Whole Grains:
A bowl of oatmeal or other whole-grain cereal has benefits that last all day. The fiber and carbohydrates in whole grains help you feel fuller longer, so you will be less tempted to overeat at lunch. They also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and can help you lose weight. Other examples of whole grains include barley, brown rice, popcorn and wild rice.
Snack on Nuts:
Need a snack? A handful of nuts is a tasty treat that helps lower cholesterol. Nuts are high in monounsaturated fat which lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol while leaving HDL (good) cholesterol intact. Several studies show that people who eat about an ounce of nuts a day are less likely to get heart disease. Nuts are high in fat and calories, so eat only a handful – and make sure they’re not covered in chocolate or sugar.
Everyone needs a little fat in their diet – about 5% to 35% of their daily calories; however, the type of fat matters. Unsaturated fats, like those found in canola, olive and safflower oils, help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Saturated fats, like those found in butter and palm oil, and trans fats raise LDL cholesterol. Even good fats have calories, so eat in moderation.
More Beans, Fewer Potatoes:
While you need carbohydrates for energy, some do your body more good than others. Beans, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat, have more fiber and raise sugar levels less. These help lower cholesterol and keep you feeling full longer. Other carbs, like those found in pastries, white bread, white potatoes and white rice, boost blood sugar levels more quickly, leading you to feel hungry sooner, and may make you more likely to overeat.
Move It: Even 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week (or 20 minutes 3 times a week for vigorous exercise, such as jogging) can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. More exercise is even better. Being active also helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight, reducing your chance of developing clogged arteries. You don’t have to exercise for 30 minutes straight. It can be broken up into 10-minute sessions.
Walk It Off:
If you are not used to exercising and/or do not want to go to a gym, take a walk. It is easy, healthy and all you need is a good pair of walking shoes. Aerobic exercise (cardio) such as brisk walking lowers risk of stroke and heart disease helps you lose weight and keeps bones strong. If you are just beginning, try a 10-minute walk and gradually build up from there.
Work Out without Going to the Gym:
Exercise can be done anywhere. Dancing, gardening or walking your dog counts. Even housework can qualify as exercise, if it raises your heart rate.
Take Charge of Your Health:
If you have high cholesterol, you and your doctor may be using a number of strategies to lower your cholesterol level. Besides working on your diet, losing weight, exercising more and taking cholesterol drugs, there are other actions you can take to make sure you remain on the right track.
While Eating Out:
If you are eating healthy food at home to keep your cholesterol in check, maintain it when you eat out. Restaurant food can be loaded with saturated fat, calories and sodium. Even healthy choices may come in supersize portions. Use these tips to stay on track:
- Choose broiled, baked, steamed, and grilled foods — not fried.
- Get sauces on the side.
- Practice portion control by asking for half your meal to be boxed up before it’s brought out.
Check the Label:
A close look at nutrition labels is key for a low-cholesterol, heart-healthy diet.
- Check serving sizes. The nutrition info may look good, but does the package contain two servings instead of one?
- If it says “whole grain,” read the ingredients. Whole wheat or whole grain should be the first one.
- Note the saturated fat and cholesterol. Are they within your diet’s limits?
Don’t Stress Out:
Chronic stress can raise blood pressure, adding to your risk of atherosclerosis, which occurs when plaque from cholesterol builds up in arteries. Research shows that for some people, stress may directly raise cholesterol levels. Lower stress levels with relaxation exercises, meditation or biofeedback. Focus on breathing, and take deep refreshing breaths. It’s a simple stress buster you do anywhere.
When Losing Means Winning:
One of the best things you can do to help prevent heart disease is to lose weight. Extra pounds make you more likely to get high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Each of these affects the lining of your arteries, making them more likely to collect plaque from cholesterol. Losing weight – especially belly fat – helps raise HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Follow the Advice of Your Doctor:
Managing your cholesterol is a lifelong process. Make regular visits to your doctor to keep tabs on your health. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on diet, exercise and medication. Working together, you and your doctor can lower cholesterol levels and keep your heart going strong.