High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and other health problems. Everyone over 21 is advised to be screened for high cholesterol at least once every five years. Testing should be done more frequently for people with diabetes who are already at high risk for heart disease. There are natural ways to reduce your cholesterol and stay out of the danger zone.
- Get tested regularly. The American Heart Association reveals people with total cholesterol of 240 mg/dl are twice as prone to heart attack as folks with a level of 200 mg/dl. Always know your numbers so you can keep cholesterol levels under control. If the level rises, a smart cholesterol management plan includes exercise and a balanced diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight and lower your body mass index. If you are overweight or obese, shedding a few pounds can cause your cholesterol level to plummet. Eating less fat is not enough. Avoid crash diets and lose a steady ½ pound to 1 ½ pounds per week. One pound equals 3,500 calories. Eating 500 calories less per day and exercising to burn off 500 more calories is a good way to reach your goal. Consult with your health care team before you start any type of diet regime.
- Walk your way to better health. If you have been inactive for a while, start exercising by taking a daily walk. Your goal is 30 minutes each day for at least 5 days a week. This can be done in spurts of 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day to make it easier. Use an Omron pedometer to gauge your daily progress. Other aerobic activities that can help you lower cholesterol include swimming, running, and bicycling or dance classes such as Zumba. Regular exercise helps you reduce stress, shed pounds and improve your circulatory system.
- Know good fats from bad ones. Saturated fats are in animal products such as whole milk, egg yolks, meats and butter. They can make your cholesterol level soar if you are sensitive to dietary fat. Good fats are omega-3 fatty accident found in fish such as salmon and tuna. Monosaturated fats such as nuts, olives and olive oil can help lower triglycerides and LDL, “the bad cholesterol,” and raise HDL, “the good cholesterol.” A handful of nuts is a good choice but eating more can add unwanted calories to your diet. Soluble fiber can also reduce cholesterol, including whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. Stay away from Trans fats found in pastries, bagged foods like chips and fried foods. Add cholesterol-reducing choices to your diet such as blueberries, apples and garlic.
- Reduce stress in your life. High cholesterol coupled with an elevated heart rate can lead to a heart attack. Ward off feelings of anger, depression and anxiety. Try breathing exercises, yoga or meditation to reduce stress. Have an active social life and engage in activities you enjoy. Another way to minimize stress is to care for a pet. Studies show having a pet can reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure and ward off depression.
- If you are a smoker, it is time to quit. Smoking can raise your blood pressure and put you at a higher risk for heart attack when you have high cholesterol and diabetes. Smoking also lowers HDL, the “good cholesterol.” Alcohol in moderation can help reduce cholesterol but excessive drinking brings on a wealth of other health problems including fluctuating blood sugar levels. Women should only have one drink a day while men under 65 can have two. Always remember to eat when drinking alcohol.
- Steer clear of sugary beverages such as soda. Drinking calories is an immediate way to gain weight and raise blood sugar. Avoid fruit juice as well. Drink up to 8 cups of water each day and add unsweetened green tea as a beverage. Green tea has compounds that can help reduce LDL cholesterol and it tastes good.
Some people with high cholesterol are advised to take medication but there are also natural ways to lower your cholesterol. Develop an effective cholesterol management plan with your doctor. Even if you take medication, these tips are essential to control your cholesterol level and lead a healthier life.