Many people who receive news from their health care provider that their cholesterol levels are high assume they immediately need to start taking a cholesterol-lowering medication. But this isn’t always the case as lifestyle changes may improve your cholesterol and lower your risk for heart disease and heart attacks.
Lifestyle changes that can help improve cholesterol levels include:
- Eating Heart-Healthy. Your health care provider will give you information on diet changes you may need to make and may recommend that you see a registered dietitian or nutritionist to develop a diet plan. Changes may include:
- Cutting back on the amount of fat and cholesterol in your meals
- Eating less sodium as this is especially important if you have high blood pressure
- Eating more fresh vegetables and fruits
- Eating lean proteins such as fish, poultry, beans, and peas
- Eating less red meat and processed meats
- Using low-fat dairy products
- Using vegetable and nut oils in limited amounts
- Limiting how many sweets and processed foods like chips, cookies, and baked goods that you eat
- Limiting how many sugar-sweetened beverages you drink
- Limiting how often you eat out
- Moving More. Regular exercise is a good way to help your body control cholesterol. Your doctor may recommend that you get more physical activity if you haven’t been active. Typically, moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 40 minutes each day, at least 3 to 4 days each week can help in many ways. It can:
- Raise your HDL cholesterol, considered the “good” cholesterol
- Help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Give more oxygen to your muscles and tissues
- Help you manage your weight
- Help your heart pump better
- Lower your blood pressure
- Managing Weight. If you are overweight or obese, your health care provider will work with you to help you lose weight and lower your BMI (body mass index). Making diet changes and increasing exercise activity can help.
- Quitting Smoking. Smoking and other tobacco use can raise cholesterol and make it harder to control. Quitting is tough. But millions of people have given up tobacco for good and with the proper guidance and support, you can too.
- Controlling Stress. Stress creeps into a person’s life in many ways and there are also many steps someone can take to learn how to deal with stress in their home and work environments. Meditation, yoga and cogitative behavioral therapy can help with controlling stress levels, which can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Make the Most of Medicines
“Sometimes healthy eating and exercise aren’t enough measures to lower cholesterol levels,” explains Phillip Painley, DO, a Steward Health Care and Steward Medical Group cardiologist. “You may need extra help from medicine. If your doctor prescribes a cholesterol-lowering medication, take it exactly as directed and let them know what other medicines you take.”
No matter if you begin taking a medication to lower your cholesterol or not, make a plan with your health care provider to have regular cholesterol checks. Additionally, you may be able to keep the medication dose low if you continue to make improvements to your lifestyle.
*Source: Mayo Clinic, mayoclinic.com
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