High cholesterol increases the risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack. Making lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet, exercising, and losing weight, can lower your cholesterol and heart disease risk.
Being overweight contributes to high cholesterol. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight – for example 10 or 20 pounds for a 200-pound person – can lower your cholesterol significantly.
Choose foods that are good for your heart. Eat leaner cuts of meat, low-fat dairy products, and monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oils. Eliminate trans fats. Eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids to raise your HDL (good cholesterol), reduce your triglycerides, and lower your blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, almonds, and ground flaxseeds.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber is good for your heart, but soluble fiber can lower LDL (bad cholesterol). You can increase your intake of soluble fiber by eating more oats, oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, and vegetables.
Whey protein is found in dairy products and accounts for many of their health benefits. When taken as a supplement, whey protein can lower LDL and total cholesterol. You can find whey protein powder in grocery stores and health food stores like our Total Health Nutrition store in Wallingford.
Moderate exercise can raise HDL cholesterol. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, as long as your doctor says it is ok. If you cannot exercise for 30 minutes at once, you can split it up into 10-minute blocks and still reap the benefits. You can exercise with a partner or group to motivate each other.
If you smoke, quitting can improve your HDL cholesterol. It can also lower your blood pressure and heart rate and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
If you drink alcohol, you should do so in moderation. Drinking too much can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke. Limit yourself to one drink per day if you are a woman or a man over 65 and no more than two drinks per day for a man under 65.
If these lifestyle changes are not enough to lower your cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medication. You should continue to work on lifestyle changes such as eating better, exercising, and losing weight to keep your medication dose low.