The Most Effective Methods for Managing Your Cholesterol
Managing cholesterol is something that can be done by making lifestyle changes paired with support from a medical practitioner. Here are some things to know before setting up an intervention plan so you can best avoid high cholesterol:
High cholesterol can increase your chances of developing heart disease or having a heart attack, according to Mayo Clinic. Not all cholesterol is created equal. Created in the liver, cholesterol is required to make hormones and helps to keep cells flexible and in tip-top shape. Too much of a good thing is sometimes a bad thing. Too much cholesterol in the wrong place is considered “bad” cholesterol. High amounts of low-density lipoprotein, otherwise referred to as LDL, can lead to deposits of cholesterol in blood vessel walls. Lipoproteins are molecules that carry cholesterol and vitamins throughout the body. Cholesterol cannot be dissolved in water so it can build up in the wrong places. This can unfortunately lead to strokes, kidney failure, heart problems, and clogged arteries, according to Healthline. The liver also produces high-density lipoprotein (HDL) that carries unused cholesterol back to the liver to protect again blockages and heart disease. The liver only makes the amount of cholesterol the body needs. It adapts that production depending on how much you eat and how much cholesterol is found in your diet. The more cholesterol absorbed from the food you eat, the less cholesterol made in the liver. It seems that dietary cholesterol may only have a small effect on the amount of cholesterol produced and found in the body, according to Healthline.
Exercise can be a good place to start when looking to manage cholesterol levels. Mayo Clinic suggests engaging in moderate physical activity 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. This exercise can help raise your “good” cholesterol levels, or HDL cholesterol. If interested in more vigorous exercise, aim for 15-20 minutes per day at least three times a week. Healthline points out that low-intensity exercise like walking can increase HDL and lead to weight loss, but the longer, more intense the exercise, the greater the benefit for your heart and cholesterol levels. Resistance training can decrease LDL at a modest intensity and even increase HDL at maximum effort. Again, the more sets, the more repetitions, the greater the health benefit.
What you eat and how much you eat can affect the way your body absorbs cholesterol and produces its own. Just a few extra pounds have been linked to contributing to high cholesterol, according to Mayo Clinic. Multiple studies have shown that weight loss efforts sustained over time (6-18 months) can help increase the absorption of “good” cholesterol from a healthy, balanced diet, according to Healthline. Harmful LDL can be reduced by losing or maintaining a healthy weight. Experts suggest starting with small dietary changes, like swapping out sugary drinks for water.
A heart-healthy diet can make a big difference in managing cholesterol. Saturated fats found mostly in red meat and full-fat dairy can raise total cholesterol. Decreasing consumption of these fats can reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol. It’s also best to avoid trans fats altogether. All partially hydrogenated vegetable oils will in fact been banned altogether by the Food and Drug Administration by January 2021. They can be found mostly in margarine, store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes.
So, if you already know what to avoid eating, what should we be adding to a heart-friendly diet? Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts, and flax seeds, don’t actually affect LDL or “bad” cholesterol but they serve to reduce blood pressure. Soluble fiber, frequently found in oatmeal, kidney beans, apples, and pears, can help reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Now’s the time to bulk up on those Brussel sprouts! Foods high in whey protein, mostly dairy products and supplements, can lower both LDL or “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure.
Lifestyle changes can help improve the cholesterol-lowering effects of prescribed medication from a medical professional. Mayo Clinic notes that lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and avoiding or limiting your alcohol consumption, can help keep required medication doses low. Moderate amounts of alcohol, such as white wine, have been linked to improved HDL and lower risk of heart disease. Smoking alters the way the body handles cholesterol and it has been linked to lower HDL or “good” cholesterol levels and an increase of overall levels. Mayo Clinic points to how quickly this lifestyle change can have an impact on cholesterol: within 20 minutes of quitting, blood pressure and heart rate recover from a spike. Within 3 months of quitting, blood circulation and lung function are improving, and within 1 full year of cessation, the risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
Managing cholesterol is possible and lifestyle changes play a big part. Often paired with prescribed medication, these solutions have been shown to be effective and lead to a healthier life!