We all want to be heart-healthy and ensuring our cholesterol levels are in the normal range is one of the most critical steps. High cholesterol can increase your risk of severe conditions like heart disease and heart attacks. Medications can improve your cholesterol but if you’re already on them, several simple lifestyle changes can be incorporated into your routine to help lower your levels. Continue reading to learn four heart-healthy habits that can improve your cholesterol.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that our bodies needs to build healthy cells. There are two types of cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” can create plaque in your arteries, putting you at risk for health complications like atherosclerosis, heart disease and vascular issues. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol” absorbs cholesterol in the blood and carries it back to the liver.
High cholesterol levels usually indicate you have too much LDL and not enough HDL. But there are several changes you can make today to help lower your “bad cholesterol” levels. Below we share some helpful tips on how to improve your cholesterol.
How to Lower Cholesterol Through Lifestyle Changes
To reduce your risk of heart-related emergencies like a heart attack or stroke try incorporating these diet and exercise tips into your daily routine.
Reduce saturated fats and eliminate trans fats from your diet.
Simple protein switches can go a long way in improving your heart health. Before your next trip to the grocery store, review your shopping list and see if you can make any of these easy swaps. Avoid red meats such as beef, lamb and pork which are high in saturated fats. Healthier alternatives include skinless chicken and turkey. You should also eliminate all trans fat from your diet. Trans fat, listed on nutrition labels as “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” is common in many processed foods. Avoid fried foods like doughnuts and many highly processed baked goods like cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, frozen pizza, stick margarine and other spreads.
Eat foods rich in omega-3s and fiber.
Foods high in omega 3s don’t affect LDL cholesterol but have many heart-healthy benefits like reducing blood pressure. Try incorporating these fish into your diet:
- Atlantic or Pacific mackerel or tilapia
- Shrimp and crab
- Cod and grouper
- Tuna steaks or light canned tuna
Also, look to add foods high in soluble fiber. Fiber binds to bile (which is made up of cholesterol) in your gut and removes it. Soluble fiber is found in oats, ground flaxseed, barley, dried beans, legumes, fruits and whole-grain cereals.
Work more movement into your daily routine. Keeping your body moving for at least 30 minutes a day can help lower cholesterol, manage blood pressure and has many other heart-healthy benefits. Try cardiovascular exercises like walking, cycling, using the elliptical or swimming.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Shedding a few extra pounds and keeping them off can do wonders for your heart health. Extra weight contributes to high cholesterol so try small changes like swapping sugary beverages for water or snacking on popcorn or pretzels over chips. Take walks on your break at work and if you can, opt for the steps instead of the elevator.
Heart Healthy Habits from AMS Cardiology
Sometimes these lifestyle changes aren’t enough and that’s okay. If you’re struggling with high cholesterol, don’t suffer alone. Schedule an appointment with one of our cardiologists where a doctor can create a specialized cholesterol plan tailored to your needs. Contact us at 215-517-1000 to make an appointment and get started on your journey of lowering your cholesterol.