High cholesterol is correlated with increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Cholesterol can be reduced with the use of medications or lifestyle changes. It is preferred that cholesterol is lowered with lifestyle changes first to help reduce the amount of medications used and precent any adverse side effects that medication may cause. If you are already taking medications, lifestyle changes may still be beneficial in lowering your cholesterol further.
The first recommendation for lowering cholesterol is eating healthy foods that are good for your heart and limiting potentially harmful food products. Saturated fats can be found in red meats and full-fat dairy products and can raise your total cholesterol. If you can limit your intake of saturated fats, you may be able to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is considered the “bad” cholesterol. Trans fats are another type of food that should be limited. Trans fats also increase total overall cholesterol levels.
Trans fats may be labeled as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and are used in cookies, crackers, and cakes. Beneficial foods that may reduce blood pressure and benefit heart health include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The types of foods that have omega-3s are salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, and flaxseeds. These foods may not lower your LDL cholesterol necessarily, but they are still good for the heart and lowering blood pressure. Increasing soluble fiber like oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussel sprouts, apples and pears can also reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. The last recommendation for diet is to add whey protein. Studies have found that whey protein supplements can lower both LDL and total cholesterol in addition to lowering blood pressure.
It is also recommended to exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes. Physical activity has been proven to help lose weight and raise your HDL, your good cholesterol. Additionally, if you are a smoker, it is recommended that you stop smoking. Stopping smoking will improve your HDL, blood pressure, lung function and lower your risk of heart disease. If ou are an alcohol drinker, you should only drink in moderation. It is recommended that all women and men older than 65 limit themselves to just one drink a day. Men under 65 should limit themselves to just 2 drinks a day. Alcohol can lead to serious health conditions like heart failure, hypertension, and strokes. If lifestyle changes are not enough, your primary care physician may prescribe medications to help lower your cholesterol.
This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.
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April 8, 2023
November 8, 2023