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By Damilola Faustino

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in the fats in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.

Lifestyle changes can help reduce cholesterol, keep you off cholesterol-lowering medications or enhance the effect of your medications. Here are five lifestyle changes to get you started.

cholesterol

Drink alcohol only in moderation

Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels 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.

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. Start by choosing healthier fats and increase soluble fiber by eating oats, fruits, beans, and vegetables.

Increase your physical activity

Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise the good cholesterol. You can 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.

Quit smoking

If you smoke, stop. Quitting might improve your 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.

Lose weight

Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent 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.

Read also: How Simple Veggies Can Save Your Life

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