Even if we don’t fully understand why, most of us do understand the importance of keeping our #cholesterol at a healthy level.
Cholesterol is necessary for our bodies to function normally. In fact, your cells and liver makes it on their own. However, when cholesterol builds up unchecked, it deposits on the walls of your arteries, blocking them and leading to strokes or heart attacks.
Age, sex, and genetics are all factors in your cholesterol level, but there are still many things you can do to reduce it. Follow these ten tips to reduce your cholesterol, lower your risk of heart attacks and even help prevent them:
1. Choose the Good Fats (and Toss out the Bad)
Grocery store shelves are stocked with products high in bad trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Usually, a quick look at the nutrition facts on the packaging will reveal the content of each type of #fat. Also check the ingredients list for “partially hydrogenated oil,” which is a bad fat.
A good rule of thumb in determining what fats are good is its physical state: If it’s solid at room temperature and in the refrigerator, it’s probably saturated fat. If it tends to be liquid, it is probably unsaturated fat and better for you. Avoid butter and margarine made from hydrogenated oils, and coconut oil. Instead, choose spreads made with unsaturated fat, unsalted nuts, olives, avocados, low-fat or skim milk, and peanut, canola and extra virgin olive oils.
2. Cut out Cholesterol-Laden Foods
Some foods that you eat every day could cause your cholesterol numbers to climb. To lower your cholesterol, stay away from fatty meats like marbled steak and pork, organ meats, and the skin of poultry, which often has deposits of fat. Instead of whole-milk dairy products, opt for yogurt and cheese made with skim milk. Avoid egg yolks in favor of egg whites and egg substitutes.
3. Fill up on Fiber
Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream and prevent blood clots. Vegetables and fresh fruit (with the skin on) are excellent sources of fiber, but you can also find them in whole grains (look for “whole-grain” on the packaging of pasta, bread, and flour), brown rice, beans, oatmeal, and some cereals. Always check the nutrition label and ingredients list!
It’s easy to work fiber into your diet. Swap your sugary cereal for a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal sweetened with bananas or berries for a dish that’s chock-full of fiber. Put down the potato chips and snack on fresh fruit, raisins, or vegetable sticks throughout the day.
4. Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These fats can also help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week to provide the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids to your body.
A good rule of thumb for choosing the right fish is the color of its flesh: If its flesh is pink or dark-colored, it probably contains omega-3 fatty acids. Good sources of this nutrient are mackerel, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon, and halibut. You can also supplement your diet with cod liver oil, which come in various flavors if you dislike the fishy taste.
5. Cook the Healthy Way
It is possible for food to be both healthy and delicious without frying! To reduce the amount of fat in your diet, try steaming vegetables and baking or grilling fish and skinless poultry. To prevent them from stocking to the pan or grill, brush – not douse! – them with extra-virgin olive oil.
6. Watch your Weight
Excess weight tends to increase the amount of “bad” cholesterol in your body. By losing weight, you help lower your body’s levels of “bad” and total cholesterol, and also raise levels of “good” cholesterol.
Whether you’re overweight or not, exercise is great for your #health. In addition to curbing obesity, regular physical activity can help optimize the levels of both “bad” and “good” cholesterols.
Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean breaking a sweat at the gym. To get 30 minutes of heart-racing activity a day, consider taking a brisk walk during your lunch break, riding your bike to and from work, or taking up an active sport. Swimming is not only a full-body workout, but also refreshing in the summer!
8. Quit Smoking
If you smoke, stop. If you don’t, don’t start! Cigarette smoking has been proven to raise the amount of a certain kind of fat in your bloodstream called triglycerides. Throwing away the cancer sticks has a slew of other health benefits, including lower blood pressure, improved lung function, reduced risk of cancers, and improved blood circulation.
9. Drink in Moderation
Excessive alcohol intake packs a doubly bad for your cholesterol levels, raising the amount of “bad” cholesterol and lowering the amount of “good” cholesterol in your body. Going over the American Heart Association’s recommendation of two drinks a day can also lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, and higher calorie intake.
For many people, the results aren’t immediate. When you make changes to your lifestyle and diet to lower your cholesterol levels, make sure that they are sustainable for the long run. Fortunately, even if your cholesterol level isn’t high, these changes will go a very long way in preventing other health problems and ensuring that you get (and stay!) in great shape.