Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Did you recently find out that you have high cholesterol levels, after a blood test? Then you probably already know that you need to change your diet and lifestyle in order to reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Even if your doctor prescribes medicines that help lower LDL cholesterol levels, you still need to change your diet and become more physically active in order to shield the health of your heart. The following simple tips can help you keep your cholesterol level under control.
Good and Bad Cholesterol
Your body needs a small amount of cholesterol to function properly. Eating some foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, your LDL (bad) cholesterol level may become increased. LDL cholesterol can help in the formation of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries, leading to heart disease. HDL cholesterol (good) on the other hand helps to reduce the bad cholesterol level from the blood. What you need is to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol, with the help of a dietary program.
Portion size control with the help of your hands
In western developed (and consumer) societies, meals can be oversized, with portions twice the size of the average recommended portions. This can contribute to both weight gain and high cholesterol. An easy way to control the portion size of a meal is to use your hand. One serving of meat or fish is the palm of your hand. One serving of fresh fruit is the size of your fist and one serving of boiled vegetables, rice is the size of your handful.
Eat the right foods for your heart
Include fruits and vegetables - 5 to 9 servings a day - to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. The benefits of fruits and vegetables may be due to the antioxidants present in these foods. Or they may be due to the fact that when we eat more fruits and vegetables, we eat fewer fatty foods. Either way, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will also help lower blood pressure and maintain body weight. Foods high in phytosterols, such as kinds of margarine, yogurts, and other foods, can also help lower LDL cholesterol.
Eat fish for the health of your heart
A diet for a healthy heart, includes twice a week, fish. Why? Fish is low in saturated fat and high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides and also help lower cholesterol and slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries. Eat fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines without fear. But be careful! Do not fry it, because fish loses its nutritional health benefits.
Start your day with whole grains
A bowl of oats or other whole grains provides benefits that last all day. The fiber and complex carbohydrates found in whole grains help you feel full for longer and so you will eat less at lunch. They can also help lower the level of LDL cholesterol and help you lose weight.
Eat walnuts for the health of your heart
Do you need a snack during the day? A handful of walnuts is a delicious treat that also lowers cholesterol. Walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fat, which lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, leaving "good" HDL cholesterol unaffected. Several studies have shown that people who eat 30 grams of walnuts a day are less likely to develop heart disease. Given the fact that walnuts are high in fat and calories, limit yourself to just a handful and make sure they are not covered with sugar or chocolate!
Unsaturated fatty acids protect the heart
We all need a small amount of fat in our diet - about 25% to 35% of our daily calories. But the type of fat matters. Unsaturated fatty acids - such as those found in olive oil - help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and may help increase "good" HDL cholesterol. Saturated fat - such as the fat found in butter and palm oil - and trans-fat increase LDL cholesterol. However, good fats are also high in calories, so you should consume them in moderation.
More legumes, fewer potatoes
You need carbohydrates for energy, but some carbohydrates are more beneficial to the body than others. Legumes and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat consist of more fiber and less sugar. These foods help lower cholesterol and increase the time of the feeling of satiety. Other carbohydrates, such as those found in white bread, potatoes, white rice, and sweets, raise blood sugar levels faster, which makes you feel hungry earlier. Thus, you eat more.
Even 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week (or 20 minutes of strenuous exercise such as running, 3 times a week) can help lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. The more you exercise the better. Being active helps you achieve and maintain normal body weight, reducing the chance of developing atherosclerosis. You do not need to work out for 30 continuous minutes. You can break it into 10-minute sessions.
If you are not used to exercising or do not wanting to go to the gym, take a walk. It's easy, healthy and all you need is a good pair of shoes. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease, helps you lose weight, and keeps your bones strong. If you are trying it for the first time, you can start with a 10 minute walk and gradually increase your walking time.
Exercise without going to the gym
You can work out anywhere. Gardening, dancing, walking your dog, is exercise. Even household chores can be described as exercise if they increase the heart rate.
What to do when eating out
If you eat healthy at home to keep your cholesterol under control, do the same even when eating out. Restaurant food may contain lots of saturated fat, calories, and salt. But even healthy choices can come in oversized portions. When eating out:
- Choose grilled, broiled, and steamed foods - not fried.
- Ask for the sauces in a separate bowl.
- Ask them to bring you half a portion of the meal. Put the rest in a package to eat at home.
Check the food labels
A closer look at packaged food labels (which you should generally avoid) is important for a low-cholesterol diet.
- Check the portions. Nutrition information may be good, but does the package contain two servings instead of one?
- Check saturated fat and cholesterol. Is it within the limits you have set?
Do not be stressed
Chronic stress can increase blood pressure and the risk of atherosclerosis. Research shows that in some people, stress can directly increase cholesterol levels. Reduce stress levels with relaxation, meditation, or biofeedback therapy. Concentrate on your breathing and take deep breaths. It's a simple stress reliever and you can do it anywhere.
When you win by losing
Weight loss is the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease. Excess weight makes high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes more likely to occur, all of which affect the endothelium of the arteries, making them more likely to develop atherosclerotic plaques. Losing weight - especially belly fat - helps increase "good" HDL cholesterol and lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol.
Follow your doctor's advice
Cholesterol management is a lifelong process. See your doctor regularly to measure your cholesterol. Follow your doctor's recommendations for diet, exercise (and medication). You can lower your cholesterol levels and keep your heart strong and healthy.