Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. You can improve cholesterol with medications, but if you’d rather first make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol, try these five healthy changes. If you have already taken medications, these changes can improve their cholesterol-lowering effect.
Eat heart-healthy foods
Even if you have years of unhealthy eating under your belt, making a few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health. So, choose healthier fats, eliminate trans fats, eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and increase soluble fibre. These will help you create a balance in your cholesterol.
Increase your physical activity
Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. With your doctor’s OK, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Adding physical activity, even in 10-minute intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight. Just be sure that you can keep up the changes you decide to make. To stay motivated, find an exercise buddy or join an exercise group. And remember, any activity is helpful. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a few situps while watching television can make a difference.
If you smoke, stop. Quitting might improve your HDL cholesterol level. And the benefits don’t end there. Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. Within one year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker. Within 15 years, your risk of heart disease is similar to someone who never smoked.
Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Losing as little as 5 to 10 per cent of your weight can improve cholesterol levels. Start by evaluating your eating habits and daily routine. Consider your challenges to weight loss and ways to overcome them. Small changes add up. If you eat when you’re bored or frustrated, take a walk instead. If you pick up fast food for lunch every day, pack something healthier from home.
Drink alcohol only in moderation
The moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol—but the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn’t already drink. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
By Damilola Faustino
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