High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, but the good news is that you can control this risk. Making simple lifestyle changes can help lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise your "good" HDL cholesterol. While genetics play a role, your daily habits can have a significant impact on your cholesterol levels.
One way to lower your cholesterol is to avoid foods high in trans fats. The FDA has taken steps to remove artificial trans fat from the food supply, but small amounts may still be present in some products. Checking the Nutrition Facts labels and ingredients can help you identify products that contain trans fats.
Losing weight can also lower your cholesterol. Even losing just 10 pounds can reduce your LDL cholesterol by up to 8%. However, it's important to lose weight gradually and aim for a safe and reasonable goal of 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Regular exercise is another effective way to improve your cholesterol levels. Exercising at least 2 1/2 hours per week can raise your HDL and improve your LDL and triglycerides. Starting slowly with just 10-minute blocks of activity can make a difference, and finding an exercise you enjoy can help you stay motivated.
Certain foods can also help lower cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fiber, such as oatmeal, apples, prunes, and beans, can prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like wild salmon, sardines, and bluefin tuna can also lower cholesterol and reduce your exposure to saturated fats.
Substituting olive oil for butter can reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 15%. Olive oil contains "good" fats and more antioxidants compared to other oils. Nuts, like almonds, can also lower LDL cholesterol but should be consumed in moderation due to their high calorie content.
Reducing stress, adding spices like garlic and cinnamon to your diet, quitting smoking, and finding humor in your life through laughter are additional ways to improve your cholesterol levels.
Overall, adopting these simple changes can help you control your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. While medication may still be necessary for some individuals, taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle can potentially lower medication dosage and decrease the chance of side effects.