Most people have probably heard their primary care providers mention cholesterol at least once or twice. High cholesterol is a condition that grows more common with age and can wreak havoc on your overall health. It’s important to know what cholesterol is, what it does, and why it’s bad for it to be high.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance flowing through your blood. There are two different types. The “good” cholesterol is called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. It gathers cholesterol from your bloodstream and carries it back to your liver which produces it in the first place. You also get cholesterol through your diet.
“Bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, tends to accumulate along the walls of your blood vessels. This makes your vessels narrower and less flexible. The resulting condition is called atherosclerosis, and it can lead to severe complications like heart attack or stroke.
Our team at Westmed Family Healthcare in Westminster, Colorado, informs you of the dangers of having too little HDL cholesterol or too much LDL cholesterol. Either issue constitutes high cholesterol, a manageable condition that tends to develop after years of unhealthy habits and eating.
Whether you’re aware of your high cholesterol or not, there are always steps you can take to keep your levels within a healthy range. Follow these five tips to improve your cholesterol without medications:
1. Get more exercise
Exercise is always among the first lifestyle recommendations from doctors. Whether you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular health or adopt a healthier mindset, regular exercise plays a critical role in improving your health and wellness outcome.
The best exercises for lower cholesterol are aerobic exercises that target multiple muscle groups. Consider cycling, swimming, or yoga to lower your cholesterol gradually and reduce stress in the process. Don’t be afraid to start slow.
If you’re new to exercise or don’t know where to start based on your age and mobility, our experts at Westmed Family Healthcare can give you a physical exam and advise you on how to become more active.
2. Drink less alcohol
You’re still allowed to grab a beer after work or enjoy a glass of wine on the weekends, but moderation is key when it comes to alcohol consumption. Your liver breaks down alcohol molecules and reconstructs them as cholesterol and triglycerides. Consequently, drinking a lot of alcohol leads to elevated cholesterol in your bloodstream.
3. Quit smoking
Smoking is another bad habit you should kick for better long-term health. Lower cholesterol is just one of the countless benefits. When you quit smoking, your HDL cholesterol levels rise almost immediately. Smoking also increases LDL cholesterol, so abandoning the habit reduces the bad cholesterol too.
4. Develop a nutrient-dense diet
Our team helps you take inventory of your diet so you can swap out the cholesterol-raising foods for heart-healthy, whole-food options.
One of the first food types to eliminate if you want lower cholesterol is trans fats. Trans fats are present in many processed foods. They’re made when oils that are naturally liquid become solid. Though the FDA has banned manufacturers from adding them to foods, you can still find them in:
- Battered and fried foods
- Commercial baked goods
- Refrigerated dough
Consider choosing foods with other types of fats. Healthy fats that don’t elevate your cholesterol include olive oil, avocado, and fatty fish.
You should also feature fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as dietary staples.
5. Find a better stress outlet
At this point, you might feel let down knowing that some of your vices are worsening your cholesterol. Cutting down on TV time and other sedentary activities, smoking cessation, reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding some of your favorite foods might feel discouraging because you use these behaviors to manage stress.
Unfortunately, stress itself is yet another determinant of high cholesterol. Consider swapping your unhealthy stress management tactics for healthy coping strategies like:
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Yoga and other low-impact exercises
- Deep breathing
- The occasional massage
- Community connection
Implementing major changes in your lifestyle may feel intimidating at first, but your new habits will become second nature in time. You’ll feel better in general and can rest assured that your cholesterol stays within a manageable range.
Discover the state of your cholesterol and review additional ways to lower it by booking an appointment online or by phone at Westmed Family Healthcare today.