Up to 120 million Americans have unhealthy cholesterol levels. Many people worry about things like violent crime, traffic accidents or other external dangers and never even stop to consider the dangers lurking within their own arteries. Proper cholesterol levels are crucial for overall health, so if you’ve recently gotten the bad news from your doctor about high levels, you’ll need to come up a plan to bring things into balance.
The Damaging Aspects of Bad Cholesterol
First, it’s important to understand that there are two types of cholesterol. The first, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), is the good variety. This type of cholesterol helps remove bad cholesterol from the body.
The second type of cholesterol is known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This is the bad type of cholesterol that build up in your arteries and cause serious damage if left unchecked. Excess LDL cholesterol can lead to gallstones, heart attack, stroke, reduced circulation and other problems.
Lowering Bad Cholesterol: Five Easy, Healthy Tips
Some factors that cause high LDL cholesterol are genetic, but there’s luckily a lot you can do to improve the situation by making a few easy lifestyle changes.
1. Reduce the Nasty Fats
Some fat is good for us, but trans fats should be avoided at all costs, especially if you already struggle with high cholesterol. On food labels, these fats are often referred to as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”, so be on the lookout for that phrase. This issue won’t be as much of a problem in the future, since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of trans fats and plans to ensure they are phased out completely by 2021.
2. Hit the Gym
No one wants to be pushed to work out, but exercise really does improve every aspect of health, and cholesterol is no exception. Studies have shown that moderate exercise can raise good cholesterol and therefore help to lower LDL levels.
Aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise three days a week to get benefits. If you can continue to do more from there, your results will be even better.
3. Enjoy Fiber-rich Foods
Fiber-rich foods offer a few benefits. First, they make you feel full for longer, which can help you avoid overindulging on unhealthy junk food. Soluble fiber, which can be found in legumes, vegetables and whole grains, has also been shown to reduce cholesterol absorption in the bloodstream. As an additional bonus, most foods that contain soluble fiber are also vegan-friendly, so if you’ll be doing some vegan traveling this year, it’ll be easy to stay healthy and stick to your eco-conscious diet.
4. Quit Smoking
We all know the negative effects smoking has on the lungs, but you might not realize that your habit is worsening your cholesterol problem. When you quit smoking, your healthy cholesterol goes up. If you’re having trouble quitting, consider talking to your doctor about a cessation aid. Sometimes, it’s better to opt for outside help than it is to attempt something you don’t think you’ll be able to accomplish on your own.
5. Visit the Doctor Regularly
It’s difficult to manage your cholesterol without proper doctor visits and testing. If you’re long overdue on a physical, schedule some time for this important act of self-care. Your doctor can let you know exactly how your cholesterol is doing and provide additional tips on lowering your LDL levels. Don’t make the mistake of avoiding the truth because hearing it will be difficult. It’s always best to empower yourself with information so you can make positive choices moving forward.
Struggling with high levels of LDL cholesterol can be frustrating, but there’s no reason to give up. With a little effort, you’ll likely see your levels fall back in line. If not, your doctor can discuss options for medications that could assist in lowering your levels alongside healthy lifestyle changes.