When it comes to cholesterol, many people don’t know if their cholesterol is high or normal. It is important to schedule an annual blood test with your physician to determine what steps to take to lower your cholesterol, if needed. If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol (LDL), you can make lifestyle changes that will put your cholesterol back into the healthy range while also reducing or even eliminating your need for medications.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a wax-like substance present in the fats (lipids) circulating in your bloodstream. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but having too much cholesterol can damage your heart.
What Does it Mean to have High Cholesterol?
If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you run the risk of having fat deposit itself in your blood vessels. As the fatty deposits build up, it makes it harder for blood to flow through your vessels and arteries. Not getting enough oxygen-enriched blood to your heart increases your chances of a heart attack, while depriving the brain of oxygen can result in a stroke. Many people have a family history of high cholesterol. However, many others develop the condition due to poor lifestyle choices. Luckily, you can lower your cholesterol and reverse its effects by making better choices in your diet and getting adequate exercise.
What Are the Symptoms of High Cholesterol?
There are no symptoms associated with high cholesterol. That’s why it’s important to get a blood test to find out if you have elevated cholesterol levels and to follow your doctor’s guidelines if necessary. Although there are no symptoms of the condition, the following factors dramatically increase your chance of having high cholesterol:
- Inactive lifestyle
- Unhealthy food choices, especially processed foods containing “trans fats”
How Can I Lower My High Cholesterol?
Making the following lifestyle changes can reduce your cholesterol levels:
Change Your Diet
- Reduce the amount of saturated fats you eat by limiting red meat and full-fat dairy products. Saturated fats raise your total cholesterol levels.
- Eliminate “trans-fat” from your diet. Trans fat is also called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and is present in margarine, store-bought cookies and other baked goods. Trans fat raises cholesterol levels and is so unhealthy that the FDA has banned it from use beginning in 2021.
- Eat foods rich in omega 3 fats like salmon, walnuts, mackerel, and flaxseeds. Omega 3s reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
- Add soluble fiber to your diet. Foods like apples, pears, Brussels sprouts, oatmeal, and kidney beans absorb excess cholesterol from your body.
- Add whey protein to foods. Whey protein, found in dairy products, is shown to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.
- Exercise is proven to help moderate cholesterol levels. Choose your favorite activity such as walking or bike riding. Begin slowly, but gradually increase your activity until you get 30 minutes of activity five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three days a week.
Other Healthy Lifestyle Choices
- Quit smoking. By giving up cigarettes, you can lower your overall cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, lower your heart rate, improve blood circulation, improve your lung function, and reduce your chance of heart disease.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Guidelines suggest women 65 and under limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day, while men 65 and under can consume two alcoholic beverages a day.
- Lose weight. Any amount of weight you can lose lowers your cholesterol and reduces your risk of heart attack or stroke.
If you have high cholesterol or would like to get your levels checked, make an appointment today with the specialists of Gotham Gastroenterology. Our specialists offer a special diet plan tailored to your needs to reduce cholesterol.