Medication isn’t the only answer for many people with high cholesterol
September is Cholesterol Education Month, and a great time to learn about ways to keep your cholesterol in check with some healthy lifestyle choices. More than 100 million Americans (over 20 years) have high cholesterol (total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL), and more than 35 million of them are at high risk for heart disease (levels of 240 mg/dL or higher). You can visit your doctor to find out if you are one of them.
Where to begin? If you are borderline or high, take some steps to care for yourself in ways that are cholesterol-friendly. Here are some examples:
Drop (a little) weight
If you lose only 10 lbs. (through a sensible approach to diet and exercise), you can reduce your LDL (bad cholesterol) by as much as 8%. But do it sensibly, by losing one or two pounds per week.
Even if you’re busy, start out with 10-minute increments of brisk walking, and work up to 2.5 hours over the course of a week (that’s 30 minutes for five days, with two days off!). This can affect your LDL and your triglycerides. Find something you like: Take a walk on your lunch hour. Take up a sport you enjoy.
This is good for you for so many reasons, but people who quit smoking see their good cholesterol rise 5% over the course of a year.
Keep tabs on the drinking
This means one drink a day for women and people over 65, and 2 drinks a day for men under 65.
Focus on food
- Don’t eat trans fats
These do two bad things: raise your LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower your HDL (good cholesterol). You’ll find them in some of your favorite guilty pleasures: fried foods, commercially produced baked goods (like cookies, cakes, and pie crusts), frozen pizza, and margarine. How bad are they? The Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to eliminate trans fats. What you want to look for on the label: “partially hydrogenated oil.” (Don’t trust anything labeled "trans fat-free” because it can still contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, and those servings add up).
- Eat more fiber
Try to get 5 to 10 more grams of fiber into your diet each day—through sources such as beans, lentils, vegetables, and oatmeal. Apples and prunes are also a good source of soluble fiber, too. All of these keep your body from absorbing cholesterol.
- Pass the garlic
If you eat between half a clove and a full clove of garlic every day, this can reduce your cholesterol by as much as 9%. So make it a habit to cook with it. Sautee a chopped clove in some olive oil before you add some veggies, and you’re in for a delicious healthy side dish.
- Replace meat with fish—some of the time
It’s good to avoid the saturated fats that are high in red meat, so switch to fish two to four times a week. Heart-healthy choices like wild salmon, Bluefin tuna, and sardines are also high in omega 3s.
- Replace butter with olive oil
Want to reduce your LDL cholesterol by as much as 15%? Make this switch. It can be as effective as some medications—without any side effects. Opt for the less-processed extra virgin variety.
- Choose nuts
Like sources of fiber, many nut varieties help the body to avoid absorbing cholesterol. Just be aware of portion control, since they are high in fat (and can be high in sodium if you buy them pre-roasted).
We hope you see two or three things on this list that you feel you can easily incorporate. You’ll find the changes become habit after the first few weeks. Good luck as you make these positive steps for your health!
This post is part of the weekly blog of Seacoast Career Schools. We’re committed to supporting our students in taking steps towards a new career of their choice. If you're interested in a professional training program, contact us today to find out more, or to schedule a tour.