Strong medications are not the only answer if you want to lower cholesterol. These lifestyle changes can be effective too.
It is estimated that over 100 million Americans have high cholesterol levels, which can lead to further health problems, and even cause strokes and heart attacks. Cholesterol in your body is a waxy substance found in the fats of your blood. While this substance is required to continue the process of building healthy cells in your body, too much of it can clog your arteries and put you at an increased risk of heart diseases. High cholesterol is often the result of unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle, although in some cases it may be an inherited condition.
You can lower cholesterol in your body with medications, but there are also ways in which you can achieve optimum cholesterol levels naturally. If you want to lower cholesterol without the use of chemical drugs, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the best solutions. Here are some tips and lifestyle changes that you can make to lower cholesterol the natural way.
- Make dietary changes
Maintaining a healthy diet is the most effective way to lower cholesterol. Even if you have not been eating healthy till now, it’s not too late to start. Here’s how you can modify your regular diet.
- Do away with trans fats: Eating foods that have trans fats increases the “bad” cholesterol and lowers the “good” cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart attacks. Avoid these fats in your diet by eliminating deep fried foods and commercial packaged food. Even small amounts of trans fats can cause harm, so if the ingredient list on a food package says ‘partially hydrogenated oils,’ give it a miss.
- Opt for healthier fats: Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids can help to lower cholesterol as these are healthier fat options, and these are founds in oils derived from sunflower, canola, grapeseed, olive, and peanuts. While choosing meats, avoid saturated fats and go for leaner cuts.
- Increase the amount of soluble fibers: Soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol, so add foods like oats and oat bran, beans, green vegetables, fruits, and lentils to your diet.
- Consume omega-3 fatty acids: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel, and nuts including walnuts, almonds, and ground flaxseeds. These fatty acids not only lower cholesterol, but offer a host of other health benefits too.
- Get regular exercise
A moderate amount of physical activity every day can raise the ‘good’ cholesterol in your body, and help you lower cholesterol. Make a habit of getting some exercise done daily, be it taking a brisk walk, swimming, playing a sport, or cycling. Other ways in which you can become physically active include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the store instead of driving, and doing a few sit ups as you watch television.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight by even a few extra pounds can influence your cholesterol levels. At the same time, you can lower cholesterol by losing as little as 5-10 percent of your body weight. Regular physical activity and the right kind of diet can help you to stay in shape. You can consult a physical therapist, a nutritionist, or your doctor to determine the duration and type of exercises that you need to do, and to fix a diet plan that will be most suitable for you.
- Limit your alcohol intake
It may not seem like drinking has much to do with your cholesterol level, but the truth is that too much alcohol consumption can increase your risk of getting a stroke or heart failure. Although there have been reports linking moderate alcohol intake with increased levels of HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol), there is no need for you to start drinking if you are not in the habit, as the benefits are not strong enough. And if you already drink, keep it in moderation.
- Quit smoking
Smoking does not do any good to your health—you are already aware of this fact. But if you are trying to lower cholesterol, it is time for you to kick the habit at the earliest. Quitting smoking not only helps in raising your HDL cholesterol level, but also reduces your chances of developing serious heart conditions.