Top 5 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Cholesterol

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Lifestyle changes can help improve your cholesterol and boost the cholesterol-lowering power of medications.

High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Medicines can help improve your cholesterol. But if you’d rather make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol first, try these five healthy changes.

If you’re already taking medication, these changes may improve their cholesterol-lowering effect.

1. Eat heart-healthy foods

A few changes to your diet can lower cholesterol and improve your heart health:

Reduce saturated fat

Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, increase total cholesterol levels. Reducing your intake of saturated fats can lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.

Eliminate trans fats

Trans fatty acids, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”, are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes. Trans fatty acids increase overall cholesterol levels.

Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids

Fatty acids omega-3s do not affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other benefits for the heart, including lowering blood pressure. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flax seeds.

Increase soluble fiber

Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oatmeal, beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.

Add whey protein

Whey protein, found in dairy products, may explain much of the health benefits attributed to dairy products. Studies have shown that whey protein supplementation lowers both LDL and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure.

2. Exercise most days of the week and increase your physical activity

Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. Get at least minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity of 29 minutes three times a week.

Adding physical activity, even at short intervals, several times a day, can help you start losing weight. Think about it:

Take a daily brisk walk during lunchtime

    Get to work at bike
      Practice a favorite sport
        To stay motivated , consider finding an exercise buddy or joining a group.

        3. Stop smoking

        Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level. The benefits are felt quickly in:

        • 20 minutes after quitting smoking, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the spike caused by the cigarette.
        • Three months after quitting smoking, blood circulation and lung function begin to improve.
        • months after quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker

        4. Lose weight

        Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to increased cholesterol. The small changes add up. If you drink sugary drinks, switch to tap water. If you crave something sweet, try sherbets or candies with little or no fat, such as sugared almonds.

        Look for ways to fit more activity into your routine like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther from your office. Take walks during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities, such as cooking or gardening.

        5. Drink alcohol only in moderation

        Moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with higher HDL cholesterol levels. But the benefits aren’t great enough to recommend alcohol to those who don’t already drink it.

        If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, this means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men over 65 years, and up to two drinks a day for men 65 years and under.

        Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and strokes.

        If lifestyle changes are not enough…

        Sometimes a healthy lifestyle change is not enough to lower cholesterol levels. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed while continuing to make lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you maintain a low dose of medication.

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