High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and heart attack. Medicines can help improve your cholesterol levels.
If you are already taking medication, these changes may improve their cholesterol lowering effect.
1. Eat heart-healthy foods
A few changes in your diet can improve your heart health and lower cholesterol:
- Cut down on saturated fat. Saturated fats, found mostly in red meat and high-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol levels. Your low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – the “bad” cholesterol can be lowered by decreasing your intake of saturated fat.
- Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats increase overall cholesterol levels. By January 1, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids do not affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart health benefits, including lowering blood pressure. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, herring, mackerel, salmon, and walnuts.
- Increase soluble fiber. The absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream can be reduced by soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as apples, Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, oatmeal and pears.
- Add whey protein. Whey protein, may account for many health benefits attributed to dairy products.
2. Exercise almost every day of the week and increase your physical activity.
Exercise can improve cholesterol. High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol can be raised with the help of moderate physical activity. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week with your doctor’s approval.
Adding physical activity, even at short intervals several times a day, can help you start losing weight. Consider:
- During your lunch hour, take a brisk daily walk
- Cycling to work
- Practice a favorite sport
Consider finding an exercise buddy or joining an exercise group to stay motivated.
3. Stop smoking
Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol levels. The benefits happen quickly:
- Within 20 minutes of stopping smoking, your blood pressure and heart rate will recover from the peak of smoking
- Within three months of stopping your blood circulation and lung function start to improve
4. Lose weight
High cholesterol can also be caused if you are carrying even a few extra pounds. Small changes add up. Switch to tap water if you drink sugary drinks. Snack on air popcorn or pretzels, but keep track of calories. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try sherbets or candies with little or no fat, such as jelly candies.
Look for ways to make more activity part of your daily routine, like using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your desk. Take walks during breaks at work. Try increasing standing activities, such as cooking or gardening.
5. Drink alcohol only in moderation
Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to higher HDL cholesterol levels – but the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend alcohol to anyone who doesn’t already drink.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink per day for women of all ages and men over 65, and up to two drinks per day for men 65 and under.
Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including heart failure, high blood pressure, and stroke.