Contributed by: Rachana Arya
High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease, as well as heart attack and stroke. But the good news is that simple changes can help improve your cholesterol.
If you are already taking medications to get your cholesterol back on track, adopting a few lifestyle changes can not only help improve your cholesterol — but also enhance the cholesterol-lowering power of your medications and lower your dose.
To improve your cholesterol, incorporate some simple changes in diet and lifestyle. While these are no instant fixes, you may notice positive changes in a matter of weeks.
Eat heart-healthy foods
A few changes in your diet can lower the level of cholesterol and improve your heart health:
- Reduce saturated fats
Saturated fats are found primarily in meat and dairy products, such as cheese, butter, and milk, as well as vegetable oils, such as palm and coconut oil.
Eating saturated fat may not be healthful in large amounts as it raises your total cholesterol. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your “bad” cholesterol — low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
- Eliminate trans fats
Dietary trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” occur naturally in foods such as often used in margarine and store-bought cookies, fried foods from fast-food restaurants, and cakes.
Trans fats raise the overall levels of bad cholesterol and lower the levels of beneficial cholesterol.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
There’s strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can significantly help you stay healthy and are especially beneficial for heart health.
High omega- 3 foods that are beneficial for cardiovascular health include flaxseeds, chia seeds, fish, canola oil, sprouts, and avocados. Walnuts and tofu also are good dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Increase soluble fibre
If you have high cholesterol, taking soluble fibre can lower cholesterol by reducing its absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fibre is found in such foods as oatmeal, apples and pears, beans, lentils, and many fruits.
- Add whey protein
Whey protein, which is found in dairy products, may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies suggest that regularly adding whey protein to your diet can help lower LDL cholesterol as well as total cholesterol and blood pressure.
Exercise on most days of the week & increase your physical activity
Exercise can play a key role in healthful cholesterol levels. Moderate-intensity physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.
Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day can reduce cholesterol and other risk factors, such as high blood pressure. Consider activities such as:
- Brisk walking
The arteries and blood vessels in your body are damaged when you smoke. Plaque buildup is more likely as a result of this. It also lowers the quantity of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in your blood, which is the “good” cholesterol.
Quitting smoking yields immediate and long-term benefits for improving your HDL cholesterol level. Generally, the increase in HDL-C concentrations occurs rapidly, in less than three weeks.
For people with high cholesterol, carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Consider:
- Switching to tap water instead of sugary beverages
- Looking for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, (using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office)
- Taking walks during breaks at work
- Trying to increase standing activities in your daily routine
Drink alcohol in moderation
Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and even strokes.
The results of several studies suggest ashwagandha, chitrak-adhivati, fenugreek seeds, guggulu, and holy basil (tulsi) all may help lower cholesterol.
These and other commonly used herbs and spices — including ginger, turmeric, shilajit, and rosemary — are being actively studied to explore the possible mechanism of action and their potential beneficial effects relating to coronary disease prevention.
If you’re considering taking any multidimensional approaches to address the problem of cholesterol disorders, first ask your doctor if these are right for you, especially if you’re taking blood-thinning medication.
Also, it’s best to get your cholesterol levels checked regularly to see what shape you are in. It will also help you to evaluate the impact of the above-mentioned lifestyle changes on your cholesterol levels.