Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Help You Get Your Cholesterol Under Control

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 Check List

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!

Exercise More

Man Stretching His Foot

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

Healthy Food

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

Salmon with Asparagus and Lemon Dish

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

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.

Quit Smoking

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

Woman Doing Pushups

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

Vegetables in a Heart Shaped Dish

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.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

Learn More

Fried Vegetables

8 Great Reasons to Try Going Meatless

If you’ve been to one of the big fast-food chains lately, you’ve probably seen options for meatless or “imitation meat” hamburgers, tacos, sandwiches, and even meatballs – and you’ve probably wondered how it tastes, and if this new trend is really worth it.

Opinions vary about how much products like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger actually taste like the real thing, but we can tell you that going meatless is good for your health and the planet. Learn more about all the benefits you can get by cutting down on meat, even if it’s only a few meals a week.

1. Improve Your Health

Cutting Vegetables

Simply reducing the amount of meat you eat has so many benefits to your health. According to the National Institutes of Health, eating red meat increases your risks for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers, and may even take years off your life. And, if you’re eating less meat and replacing it with healthy fats, fresh seasonal produce, and whole grains, you get even more health-boosting benefits.

2. Helps Protect Our Environment

Hands Holding the World

The farming of animals required to produce meat uses a lot of precious resources, especially water, feed, and land – it takes 450 gallons of water to produce a quarter-pound of beef, and the amount of grain used to feed U.S. livestock animals every year could feed 800 million people. Millions of gallons of pesticides and fertilizers that give off greenhouse gases are used for commercial livestock. Even the United Nations notes that the farming and eating of meat contributes to climate change (global warming).

3. Meat Substitutes Have Come a Long Way

Meat Substitutes

In recent years, plant-based meat alternatives, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, have made a huge splash in the market, with both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Both products were created to be more like “real” meat, in terms of taste, texture, aroma, appearance, and juiciness – they’re even plump and pink on the inside when you cook them. Some people love them and think they taste almost identical to meat; others think that, even if the flavor isn’t identical to meat, it’s still delicious and worth eating once or twice a week to benefit their health and the environment.

4. So Many Tasty Options

Almond Cream with Spoon

You don’t need a meat substitute to get your protein and other nutrients. Other ways to go meatless include:

  • Nut butter (peanut butter or almond butter)
  • Legumes
  • Tofu or tempeh
  • Rice and beans (eaten together, they form a complete protein)
  • Quinoa
  • Whey protein shakes
  • Traditional soy- and plant-based veggie patties and products

There are so many high-protein options that even if you’re doing a keto program, you can still plan a few meatless meals.

5. Because Animals

Young Woman Feeding Cows

Most commercially farmed animals (like the kind that end up in fast-food hamburgers and chicken nuggets, and the fresh meat at the supermarket) have short and terrible lives before they are killed. Even products labeled “free-range” or “farm-raised” don’t always guarantee that the animals are treated humanely, and these products are still quite expensive. And at the end of it all, these animals are killed (usually in inhumane ways) for consumption. If you truly love animals, the best way to protect them is to eat fewer of them. It doesn’t mean you need to be a vegetarian or vegan, but every little bit makes a difference.

6. It’s Great for Weight Loss

Steping on a Scale

One of the biggest benefits of eating less meat is that you’re likely to drop a few pounds, too. Compared to fresh produce and grains, meat is dense in calories. If you’re cooking your own meatless meals, you may be more likely to eat a whole-food diet, and less likely to use processed ingredients that are higher in calories. And chances are good that if you’re not eating that hamburger, you won’t be having the French fries or sugary soda that goes with it.

7. It Could Help You Look Younger

Woman Looking Herself in The Mirror

Meats, especially red meats and highly processed lunchmeats, can fire up inflammation in your body, which can lead to less collagen and elastin in your skin. These are two proteins in your body that help make your skin supple, moist, and resilient. Over time, too much inflammation in your body can cause your skin to appear dry and wrinkled.

8. Even a Little Bit Makes a Difference

Healthy Grill

You don’t have to turn completely vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits: Just think about doing a “Meatless Monday” or replacing a couple of meals a week, and you’ll start seeing a difference. Even skipping just half a serving of meat and replacing it with one of the protein-packed options in #4 above can cut your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

You may even save some money, too!

Experts agree that most people get more than enough protein in their diets, so an occasional meatless meal is totally safe. In fact, most people don’t get enough fiber, and could benefit from incorporating more veggie options in their diet. But if you’ve ever been told you are iron-deficient or have anemia, you may want to talk to your doctor first.

If you’re healthy and looking for ways to feel even better, keep checking the AltaMed Health and Wellness page. You’ll find all the news you need to know to stay safe, get in shape, and take care of both your mind and body.

Boost Your Immunity

6 Naturally Effective Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Lately, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about your immune system, and how important it is to boost it to help you stay healthy.

The truth is, there’s no single food or supplement that can enhance your immune system. And, unfortunately, you can’t boost your immune system against COVID-19 or a particular disease. But you can eat well and live a healthy lifestyle to lessen your chances of getting sick. You could also end up leaner, stronger, happier, and healthier…so what are you waiting for?

1. Start with a Healthy Diet

Woman Choosing Vegetables

Your body needs vitamins to function properly, and the best way to get your vitamins is by eating a wide variety of healthy foods. Here are a few of the vitamins and nutrients that can protect you, and where to find them.

Vitamin C is the one you usually think of when you start sniffling or worry that a cold is coming. Even though there is no evidence that the vitamin will prevent you from catching a cold, those who regularly get enough Vitamin C may not get sick for as long or have as severe of a cold. Get your C from delicious sources, such as:

  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers

Zinc is another nutrient thought to fight the common cold and protect you from the flu. Zinc is needed for immune cell development; if you don’t get enough, you could be at higher risk for pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Some studies have shown that taking zinc at the beginning of an illness may help you get over it faster. You can get a healthy amount of zinc in:

  • Normal servings of lean beef, seafood, low-fat dairy, eggs, and chicken
  • Vegetarian/vegan sources such as nuts, seeds, tofu, beans, and lentils

Vitamin D is essential for helping your body fight off disease and infection. If you’re deficient (and many of us are), this could increase your risk of upper respiratory tract infections, including flu and allergic asthma. Because Vitamin D fights inflammation, it may help those who suffer arthritis or autoimmune diseases like lupus, psoriasis, or irritable bowel disease. Get your Vitamin D in:

  • Fatty fishes like salmon, sardines, and anchovies (eaten in moderation)
  • Eggs, especially the yolk (eat no more than one a day)
  • Fortified staples such as milk, cereal, orange juice, and bread
  • Sunshine! No, you don’t eat it, but spending a few minutes in the noon-time sun, a few times a week, can help your body produce Vitamin D. Make sure to wear SPF and protect your eyes.

Spices have been used as medicine and complementary care for centuries, and many have been put to the test by modern science. These are a few of the delicious spices that, when used in moderate amounts, can help protect your cells from damage.

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cinnamon

2. Get Moving

Man Riding a Bike

Regular exercise, especially cardio, boosts the cells in your immune system and reduces inflammation, so your body can use its defenses to fight infection. Other great benefits of exercise include lowering your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and helping keep your brain sharp and lessens the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

3. Sleep Well

Sleeping Woman

Not getting enough sleep can make you sick, and sleep deprivation is also linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, and depression. Sleep is your body’s time to repair itself, and that includes producing T-cells that help fight off infections. To help your body and your mind perform their best, aim for 7 or 8 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep.

4. Don’t Worry

Woman Enjoying Aromatherapy

Stress is bad for both your body and your mind. Too much stress, for too long, suppresses our immunity and floods our body with cortisol, which can attack our white blood cells and leave us less able to fight off a host of diseases, including cancer. Regular self-care, including exercise, can help you better cope with stress.

5. Be Happy

Father and Son Playing Basketball

We know that stress and loneliness can make us sicker. Even though the evidence that happiness strengthens our immunity isn’t rock-solid, being happy is linked to healthy habits, like eating more fruits and increased physical activity. Happiness is also linked to lower risk of heart disease, and it has a positive impact on our perception of pain.

6. Get Your Vaccines

Man Getting Vaccinated

We saved the best for last: getting routine vaccinations is the safest and most effective way to protect against many serious diseases, including the flu, cervical cancer, and more. Even though many vaccines have existed for decades, they are constantly tested for safety and effectiveness, and adjusted so they are of the most benefit to the most people. Vaccines aren’t just for kids! Contact us to learn about age-appropriate vaccines.

Here for You

Most of these immunity boosters are appropriate for all ages and types of people, but if you’d like to get help with a specific issue, contact your doctor. We’re here to help you grow healthy, no matter your needs.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Help You Get Your Cholesterol Under Control