Are you looking for ways to improve your cholesterol specifically the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ numbers and reduce the risk of heart disease? Implementing a healthy lifestyle with both regular exercise and healthier foods is the answer!
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and substances that help you digest foods. However, cholesterol also is found in some of the foods you eat.
Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Having healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins is important. Learn more from this article about HDL / LDL and heart disease risk here.
How to increase ‘good’ HDL and decrease ‘bad’ LDL
The following lifestyle changes can improve both the HDL and LDL cholesterol:
This is the number 1 way to improve your health and cholesterol! Pick an activity that you will stick with like walking, swimming, tennis, climbing stairs and running. Schedule a workout time block on your mobile calendar as a reminder! Commit to 40 minutes 4-5 times a week.
Switch to monounsaturated fats found in olive oil. Also select lean grass-fed beef and low-fat dairy limiting your intake to 2-3 times a week.
Omega-3 fatty acids foods
Increase the ‘good’ HDL and reduce the triglycerides numbers with omega-3 fatty acids. Good food sources are walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseeds, and some fish like salmon, mackerel and herring.
Consume protein-rich plant foods
Switch to plant-based foods over meat to improve ‘bad’ LDL numbers. Consume protein-rich beans, nuts and seeds. Select unsalted raw or dry-roasted nuts and seeds as a healthy 1 ounce daily snack.
Soluble fiber-rich foods
Both soluble and insoluble fiber are heart healthy but the soluble helps lower the ‘bad’ LDL numbers. Add these foods to your shopping list; oats, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, beets, eggplant, berries, apples, oranges and nectarines.
Eat less high fat foods
The following fats increase ‘bad’ LDL; saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol foods. Avoid or at least reduce fried foods, shellfish, egg yolks, bakery cookies and cakes, fatty red meat, dairy, canola oils and any foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.
Lose excess weight
Carrying just an extra 5 or 10 pounds can increase your cholesterol numbers and risk for heart disease. Look for simple ways to be more active taking the stairs and parking further away from the building. Resist the urge to pick up fast food on the way home by having healthier foods and snacks around.
Reduce your risk for heart disease by half after just one year of quitting. The risk continues to decrease after every year that you have quit!
Just implementing ONE of these lifestyle changes to your daily routine will improve the HDL / LDL number by 5. Imagine how your health will improve when you implement more! The number will improve by another 5.
Optimal healthy levels for HDL and LDL
- HDL are higher numbers at 60 mg/dl or above.
- LDL are lower numbers at 129 mg/dl or below. If you are at risk for heart disease, then 100 mg/dl or below is optimal.
Both low levels of HDL and elevated levels of LDL will increase your risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Statin medications may be suggested by your health care provider to help improve your cholesterol numbers but the meds still won’t reduce the risk of heart disease. Hence the importance of implementing healthy lifestyle changes.
Helpful resources to learn more:
- HDL cholesterol: How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol article from MayoClinic.org
- Lower cholesterol naturally and fast article from DrAxe.com
Please note: you should make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with qualified health care providers.
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