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How to lower cholesterol levels with these easy lifestyle changes

  • November 13, 2019
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While cholesterol is produced naturally in the body by the liver, having too much of it can put your health at risk. High levels of low-density lipoprotein, also known as LDL or “bad” cholesterol, can accumulate within the artery walls, increasing risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. , as well as stroke.

National standards suggest that levels between 130 and to 159 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered borderline, and 160 and above qualify as high cholesterol. Cenegenics, however, looks to achieve more optimal ranges to reduce disease risk and in many cases, aims for LDL levels near 100 or 120 mg/dL.

How to Lower Cholesterol Levels

Although medications are available to treat especially high cholesterol, there are many effective lifestyle changes you can make to bring your levels into a healthy range. Discover some of the most effective strategies below.

What Does a Cholesterol-Healthy Diet Look Like?

In general, the eating habits that support healthy cholesterol levels are also in line with dietary patterns that support long-term weight management and overall health. Specifically, here are a few items to incorporate into your diet to manage your cholesterol:

Four green olives next to a small glass bowl with olive oil being poured into it

  • Foods high in soluble fiber: Soluble fiber controls the amount of cholesterol your bloodstream absorbs. Fiber also helps you stay full, which can prevent you from snacking on nutritionally poor foods in between meals. While Cenegenics commonly suggests higher amounts, eating as little as 5 to 10 more grams of fiber per day can lower LDL cholesterol by 5 to 11 points on average, or possibly more.  Foods rich in soluble fiber include:
    1. Whole grains, such as oat meal, barley, and quinoa
    2. Lean protein, such as beans
    3. Healthy fats, including avocado and chia seeds
    4. Vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots, onions, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
    5. Starchy vegetables, including green peas and sweet potatoes
    6. Fruits, such as apples, bananas, peaches, and pears

brown basket on rustic wooden table with raw vegetables: red beets, turnips, tomatoes, spinach, yellow pepper

  • Polyunsaturated & monounsaturated fats: These fatty acids help lower LDL. Many plant-based oils are rich in these fats, including olive, avocado, and sunflower oil. In fact, swapping your low-cost butter out for olive oil can reduce your LDL cholesterol by as much as 15%, which is as effective as some low doses of cholesterol-lowering medications. Fatty fish, including tuna, salmon, and mackerel, are also good sources of these key nutrients, as are nuts and seeds.
  • Whey protein: Commonly found in dairy products, whey protein can lower total and LDL cholesterol, as well as blood pressure. Cheese, yogurt, and cow and goat milk contain whey protein.

 
Which Foods Should Be Avoided?

junk food including soda pop, French fries, hamburger, donut, candy, cookies, chips

While including cholesterol-lowering foods in your diet can help you achieve measurable differences in your levels, it’s important not to undo your progress with foods that can raise LDL cholesterol. In specific, steer clear of trans fats.

Although there has been pressure on the food industry to phase out these dangerous additives, they may still appear in food products and could be described as “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list. Specifically, look out for them in:

  1. Cakes
  2. Pie crusts
  3. Stick margarines
  4. Frozen pizza
  5. Cookies

Staying away from fried foods, baked goods, refined sugars and grains, and other heavily-processed foods is also essential to keeping cholesterol in a healthy range.

Will Exercising Help?

Three men with helmets on, smiling, riding 10-speed bicycles outside on a sunny day

While it’s impossible to compensate for a poor diet with exercise, regular physical activity could improve cholesterol by raising high-density lipoprotein, or the “good” cholesterol. Ideally, you should aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week – with your doctor’s approval, of course.

Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can also help you achieve long-term weight management, which supports healthy cholesterol levels as well. Here are some types of physical activity to consider

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  1. Cycling, indoors or outdoors
  2. Taking a brisk walk each day
  3. Swimming

 

Are There Any Other Lifestyle Changes to Consider?

A woman seen from behind in black exercise clothes doing yoga next to a lake on a sunny day

In addition to diet and exercise guidelines above, here are a few more things you can do to lower your cholesterol levels:good HDL cholesterol​ HDL cholesterol​​​

Minimize stress: Managing stress can be easier said than done, but it’s important to a number of health outcomes, including lowered cholesterol. Research shows chronic stress is associated with high LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, so aim to manage your stress with calming techniques such as journaling, yoga, meditation, regular massage, or any other healthy tactics you prefer.
Quit smoking: Smoking cessation can improve your HDL levels. Plus, within one year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is slashed in half.
Reduce alcohol intake: Moderate alcohol intake has been shown to help boost good HDL cholesterol, but excessive drinking is associated with high blood pressure and stroke, among other serious health issues. If you drink, limit it to one glass a day, and if you don’t, continue to abstain – the benefits aren’t strong enough to support a defense for alcohol for people who don’t drink already.

It’s Easier Than You Think! – In Conclusion

Discovering you have high cholesterol may be alarming, especially when you consider the implications of allowing it to go unaddressed. Luckily, though, there are plenty of ways to control your cholesterol levels, many of which have added health benefits.

Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly, for instance, can also help you achieve long-term weight management. Reducing stress, reducing your alcohol intake, and quitting smoking are likewise beneficial for your cholesterol levels and overall health.

Although embarking on any new health goal can be daunting, the team from Cenegenics can help. Our trained clinical staff works with each patient to set specific goals based on their individual biomarkers.

Over time, they can help you reach and maintain optimal cholesterol levels, while also working towards any other short- and long-term health objectives you may have.