High cholesterol is a serious problem for one in six adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the body needs some cholesterol, when levels become too high, it puts a person at risk for a heart attack and stroke. Excess cholesterol in the body can stick to the walls of the arteries and block blood flow to the heart and brain. Although in some cases, medication may be recommended to lower levels, there are other things you can do to reduce your cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol in the body: low density lipoprotein (LDL), which is bad cholesterol. The other type of cholesterol is high density lipoprotein (HDL) and is actually good for you because it helps prevent heart disease. Aerobic exercise is a great weapon in battling cholesterol because it not only lowers bad cholesterol levels, but it can raise HDL levels. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of some type of aerobic exercise on most days. For more information, check out The Importance Of Aerobic Conditioning.
Although additional research is needed, taking certain supplements may help lower cholesterol levels. For instance, fish oil may lower triglyceride levels. In addition, garlic supplements may reduce total cholesterol level. Keep in mind, supplements may have side effects, and you should always check with your doctor before adding them to your diet.
Although some fat is needed in your diet, all fats are not considered equal. For instance, monounsaturated fat is considered one of the healthier fats to eat. According to the American Heart Association, replacing unhealthy fats with foods containing monounsaturated fats can help reduce cholesterol levels. Incorporate monounsaturated fats in your diet by snacking on a handful of nuts or adding avocados to a salad. To learn more about the different types of fat, be sure to read Dietary Fats: Separating The Bad From The Good.
Being overweight raises total cholesterol levels according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Even losing a modest amount of weight, such as 10 pounds, can decrease levels of bad cholesterol. If you are overweight, speak with your doctor about developing a healthy eating plan and starting an exercise program.
You may be surprised at some of the ingredients in your food. A quick check of nutrition labels can let you know how much fat and cholesterol the food contains, which allows you to make better choices. You want to limit foods high in saturated fats and trans fats. Also, limit total cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams each day.
Smoking affects both good and bad cholesterol. Smoking can decrease levels of good cholesterol in the body and increases bad cholesterol. In addition, smoking can damage the arteries, which may allow cholesterol to stick to the walls of the arteries easier, leading to blockages. Smoking cessation programs are usually available through hospitals, colleges and community centers.
Adding fiber to your diet has several benefits including reducing how much LDL cholesterol is absorbed by the bloodstream. According to the Mayo Clinic, adding 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber to your diet each day can help lower LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber rich foods include peas, carrots, citrus fruits and barley. To learn more, see The Difference Between Insoluble And Soluble Fiber
There is some evidence that eating foods with phytosterols may block the absorption of cholesterol in the blood. Phytosterols are found in foods such as wheat germ, almonds and Brussels sprouts. In addition, phytosterols are also available in certain fortified foods and supplements.
Although everyone feels stressed at least occasionally, chronic stress can affect your cholesterol level. Evidence suggests hormones produced when you’re stressed cause the liver to make more cholesterol. Techniques, such as imagery, meditation and biofeedback may help reduce stress levels. Yoga, tai chi and aerobic exercise are also good ways to manage stress.
Saturated fat and trans fat are considered the worst fats to eat because they raise LDL levels. The American Heart Association recommends limiting calories from fat to about 25 percent, but only 7 percent can be from saturated fat and 1 percent from trans fat. Saturated fats are found in certain meats, dairy products, lard and fried foods. Healthier options include lean beef, poultry without the skin, and low-fat dairy products. Trans fats are found in chips, fried foods and vegetable shortening.
High cholesterol is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. The good news is cholesterol is also a controllable risk factor. Reducing cholesterol levels is essential to lower your risk of coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Finding ways to lower cholesterol without medication is a great way to take control of your health.