At your last check up your doctor told you your cholesterol was high. What to do? Here are three ways to lower your cholesterol, starting today.
1. Know your risk
Cholesterol acts as a transporter for fats by carrying them through your arteries and helping them build up as plaque. Plaque that lines your arteries constricts the flow of blood to your heart and throughout your body, making your heart work harder. When the blood flow becomes extremely constricted, a heart attack can occur.
“Cholesterol plays a major role in heart disease, especially coronary artery disease (CAD),” said a cardiologist with The Memorial Hospital.
Maybe high cholesterol is the only risk factor you have for heart disease, or maybe it’s one of several. Discover what your overall risk level is. If it’s moderate or low you might be able to lower your cholesterol with changes in your lifestyle habits. If it’s high, you’ll likely need medication and to get your levels checked annually.
2. Get active
Exercise lowers your bad, LDL, cholesterol and raises your good, HDL, cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic, losing 5% to 10% of your body weight can significantly lower your cholesterol. If you weigh 200 pounds that computes to losing 10 to 20 pounds.
“I recommend an aerobic workout that generates a heart rate at 85% of your predicted maximum heart rate for 35-40 minutes three or four times a week, with some weight training to balance things out,” the cardiologist said.
If that seems daunting at first, work up to it. Many experts believe that several brief exercise sessions during the day add up to the same health benefits as one long work out. Just make sure you get your heart pumping and breathing up.
3. Adopt a few new healthy eating habits
When you are tired do you gravitate toward a burger and fries for lunch or a few double lattes in the morning? While these choices may temporarily rev you up, the negative effects on your health are not worth it. Vow to exchange a few bad habits for good ones that lower your cholesterol.
For starters, eat less meat. If you consume meat seven days a week, try reducing that to three or four. You may love a good steak or brat, but make them special occasion foods rather as they contain high amounts of saturated fat. Also, reduce the serving size of the meat you eat to 4 ounces or less, making sure it is lean meat such as chicken breast or turkey. Better yet, replace meat with fish or vegetables. How you cook matters as well—swap deep-fried and breaded with broiled, grilled or baked.
Another simple diet change is eliminating trans fats. The Mayo Clinic calls trans fats a “double whammy” for cholesterol since they are known to raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Check labels for hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Take action to decrease your odds by getting your cholesterol under control.