How to Reduce Cholesterol

More than 100 million Americans have high cholesterol which can clog arteries and cause heart attacks, heart disease and strokes.

Lifestyle changes can help reduce cholesterol, keep you off cholesterol-lowering medications or enhance the effect of your medications. You can of course improve cholesterol with medications, but if you'd rather first make lifestyle changes to reduce your cholesterol, these changes can help or perhaps even eliminate you from having to take medication. Here are seven lifestyle changes to help get you started.

Cholesteral

1.       Eat healthy foods

Even if you have years of unhealthy eating under your belt, making a few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health.

2.       Choose healthier fats

Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and dairy products, raise your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol. As a guideline, you should get less than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. Choose leaner cuts of meat, and monounsaturated fats — found in olive and canola oils — for healthier options.

3.       Eliminate trans fats.

Trans fats affect cholesterol levels by increasing the "bad" cholesterol and lowering the "good" cholesterol. This bad combination increases the risk of heart attacks. Trans fats can be found in fried foods and many commercial products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. But don't rely on packages that are labeled "trans fat-free." In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, it can be labeled "trans fat-free." Even small amounts of trans fat can add up if you eat foods that contain small amounts of trans fat. Read the ingredient list, and avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils.

4.       Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids don't affect LDL cholesterol. They have other heart benefits, such as helping to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good") cholesterol, reducing your triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood, and reducing blood pressure. Some types of fish — such as salmon, mackerel and herring — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds.

5.       Increase soluble fiber.

There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Both have heart-health benefits, but soluble fiber also helps lower your LDL levels. You can add soluble fiber to your diet by eating oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, and vegetables.

6.       Exercise on 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. Adding physical activity, even in 10-minute intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight. With your doctor's OK, work up to at least 30 minutes to one hour of exercise a 4-5 times a week. Remember, any activity is helpful. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a few situps while watching television can make a difference.

7.       Lose weight

Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your weight can improve cholesterol levels.

8.       Drink alcohol only in moderation

Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren't strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn't already drink. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.

Start by evaluating your current eating habits and daily routine. Consider your challenges to weight loss and ways to overcome them. Small changes add up. If you eat when you're bored or frustrated, take a walk instead. If you pick up fast food for lunch every day, pack something healthier from home. For snacks, munch on carrot sticks or air-popped popcorn instead of potato chips. Don't eat mindlessly.

by Crystal Jarvie

Crystal Jarvie is certified integrative health coach for HealthStyles 4 You. She focuses not only on nutrition - but also on relationships, physical activity, career and spirituality – and how those five things are connected to your health and vitality. She’ll help you take your health to the next level. For more information and a free 30 minute health evaluation, please visit www.healthstyles4you.com. 


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