Maybe your doctor has told you that you have high cholesterol levels, or you suspect you’re one of the 134 million people in the U.S. who have elevated cholesterol. You may wonder how serious it is, or what you can do to get your cholesterol levels under control.
High cholesterol is not a disease itself, but it’s a condition that puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. If you have elevated levels of cholesterol, you won’t experience any symptoms. Your doctor can give you a simple blood test that measures the cholesterol in your blood.
Good Cholesterol Versus Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is carried through your body on two different types of proteins:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol. This type of cholesterol contributes to fatty buildups in your arteries. If you have too much LDL, you could be at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. It is believed that the HDL in your blood carries the LDL away from your artery and back to your liver, where it is broken down and passed out of the body.
When your doctor tests your cholesterol, they’ll measure the total cholesterol, as well as your levels of LDLs and HDLs, and then make recommendations based on these numbers.
Even if you’re not worried about your cholesterol but want to improve your heart health, the tips below are a good start!
Doing moderate physical activity can help you reduce the bad kind of cholesterol. Aim for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
How to do it: Just start moving! Even a vigorous walk around the block counts as cardio exercise. Although you’ll get the best results with cardio, strength training can also help control your cholesterol.
Add More Fiber to Your Diet
Eating soluble fiber—which dissolves in water to form a gel-like material—can prevent cholesterol from entering your bloodstream. This can also aid weight loss efforts by making you feel full for longer, and fiber can help prevent constipation.
Where to find it: apples, pears, oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, oat bran, almonds.
Eat Less Red Meat
Red meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb are high in saturated and trans fats which can raise your cholesterol level and increase your risks for high blood pressure and heart disease.
How to do it: White-meat, skin-off chicken and fish are healthy proteins, and there are also many delicious meatless options you can try. Fish/seafood like salmon, mackerel, oysters, sardines, and anchovies are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health and may lower your bad cholesterol.
Cut Down on Full-Fat Dairy Products
Whole-fat dairy foods like milk, cheese, cream, and ice cream are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and can raise your LDL levels.
How to do it: Look for low-fat or cholesterol-free versions of your favorites. Swapping 2% milk for regular milk still gives you all the bone-building calcium and nutrients but without the cholesterol. Instead of ice cream, try a fruit sorbet or sherbet.
Smoking tobacco and using products like vapes are some of the worst things you can do for your health. Cigarette smoke raises your LDLs and lowers your HDLs – in addition to putting you at greater risk for many diseases and ailments, including COVID-19.
How to do it: Quitting is often easier said than done, especially if you’ve smoked for a while. Our Behavioral Health Services team can offer you support and make recommendations to support your journey to go tobacco free.
Lose Extra Weight
Being overweight can increase your cholesterol levels and put you at higher risk for heart disease, so even losing just a couple of pounds can help lower your cholesterol.
How to do it: Making a few simple lifestyle changes like the ones outlined here can help you lose weight at a safe and steady pace. Your doctor can give you more information and make personalized recommendations.
Skinny People Can Have High Cholesterol, Too!
Anyone is susceptible to high cholesterol, including young people, athletes, women, men—basically everyone. Some of the risks are related to lifestyle, but certain health and genetic conditions can contribute to high cholesterol which is why changing your diet isn’t always enough. Many people with high cholesterol can use cholesterol medications to manage their levels but lowering your cholesterol with healthy lifestyle choices should always be the first choice.
You Have Support
We encourage you to work with your doctor to get your numbers down and grow healthy! If you’re interested in our Healthy Heart Program, which helps individuals achieve healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, please call (323) 558-7606.