The bad news is high cholesterol can have a negative effect and put you at risk when it comes to your cardiovascular health. The good news is high cholesterol can be lowered, which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The key is knowing your numbers and working with your doctor to adjust your cholesterol levels when necessary. Many times, changing your behaviors goes a long way toward bringing your cholesterol numbers into balance. Here are some of the lifestyle changes you might be asked to make if you have high cholesterol or are at risk of it, according to the American Heart Association.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. The best way to lower your cholesterol levels is to reduce the saturated fat and trans fat you ingest through the food you eat. You should limit the saturated fat you eat to 5 to 6 percent of daily calories and minimize the amount of trans fat you eat. Limit your intake of red meat and dairy products made with whole milk, and choose skim milk, low-fat, or fat-free dairy products instead. Limit the fried food you eat, and cook with healthy oils such as vegetable oil. A heart-healthy diet requires fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts. A diet high in fiber can lower cholesterol levels by as much as 10 percent.
- Become more physically active. A sedentary lifestyle lowers good cholesterol levels, which puts your levels out of balance in favor of the bad cholesterol. Just 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week is enough to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. Partake in brisk walking, swimming, cycling, or even dance class to meet these requirements.
- Quit smoking. Smoking lowers good cholesterol. Even worse, when a person with unhealthy cholesterol is also a smoker, the risk of coronary heart disease increases more than it otherwise would. By quitting, smokers can lower their cholesterol levels and protect their arteries. If you don’t smoke, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Lose weight. Being overweight tends to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol levels. Losing excess weight can improve and balance your cholesterol levels. Losing as little as 10 percent of your body weight can improve your cholesterol.
The most important thing to remember about cholesterol is knowing your numbers. Starting at 20 years old, you should get your numbers checked. You could be at risk of high cholesterol no matter your gender, race, age, or weight. Know your numbers, and work with your doctor to keep your cholesterol in check!