Maintaining your cholesterol levels is vital as you age; when they get too high, they can put you at a higher risk of heart problems and stroke.
In this blog post, we will look at how to lower your cholesterol in 10 easy ways. Discover how easy it can be to manage your cholesterol with Echelon Health.
Understanding cholesterol and its impact on heart health
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in your bloodstream and all the cells in your body. Cholesterol is essential for your body to build healthy cells, make hormones and digest food. However, having high cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Too much cholesterol in the blood can build up in the walls of your arteries — forming plaque that can narrow your arteries and restrict blood flow. This process can lead to a heart attack or stroke if the plaque ruptures and causes a clot to form.
Making lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol levels can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Changes include eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and managing stress.
If lifestyle changes are not enough, a doctor may prescribe medication to help lower your cholesterol levels.
Diet changes to lower cholesterol levels
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for lowering your cholesterol. Here are some foods to eat and avoid, and healthy eating tips for lowering your cholesterol.
Foods to eat
- Fruits and vegetables – Aim for at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, as they are low in saturated fat and high in fibre.
- Whole grains – Choose whole grain bread, pasta and rice instead of refined grains, as their fibre is high.
- Lean protein – Choose lean meats, such as chicken, turkey and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and mackerel.
- Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts and chia seeds are high in fibre, healthy fats and other nutrients that can help lower cholesterol.
- Legumes – Beans, lentils and chickpeas are high in fibre and protein.
Foods to avoid
- Saturated and trans fats – Limit foods high in saturated and trans fats, such as fatty meats, butter and cheese.
- Processed foods – Avoid processed foods, such as fast food, as they are often high in saturated and trans fats.
- Sugary drinks – Limit sugary drinks, such as pop and juice, as they can lead to weight gain and increase cholesterol levels.
Healthy eating tips
- Cook at home – Cooking at home allows you to control the ingredients and avoid excess fats, sugars and salt. You will know every ingredient that has gone into your meal and whether it is good for your cholesterol.
- Choose healthier cooking methods – Opt for baking, grilling or roasting instead of frying.
- Use healthy fats – Replace saturated and trans fats with healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado.
- Practise portion control – Smaller portions can help manage your weight and lower cholesterol.
- Read food labels – Check the nutrition label for saturated and trans fats and choose lower fat options. However, be mindful of the other ingredients used in low-fat foods, as these can sometimes be high in sugar or salt to make up for less fat.
Exercise for a healthier heart
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are lipoproteins, which are a combination of fats (lipids) and proteins that transport cholesterol through the bloodstream.
HDL is often called the ‘good’ cholesterol because it helps remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and takes it back to the liver, where it is processed and eliminated from your body. Higher levels of HDL are often associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Conversely, LDL is often called the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it builds up on the walls of your arteries and forms plaques. Medical science links high levels of LDL to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Physical activity is an essential component of managing these cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can help lower your LDL levels, increase HDL and improve your overall heart health.
Importance of physical activity for cholesterol management
Exercise can help increase HDL cholesterol levels, which can boost the removal of LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream.
In addition, physical activity can support weight management, which could lower your LDL cholesterol levels. Exercise can also improve your overall heart health by reducing inflammation, improving blood flow and reducing the risk of other heart disease risk factors.
Types of exercise to lower cholesterol
Some types of exercise that you could add to your workout routine include:
- Aerobic exercise – Brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming and dancing.
- Resistance training – Weight lifting and other forms of resistance training to build muscle and improve your metabolism.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT) – HIIT involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by rest periods.
Always speak with your doctor before taking up any new form of exercise.
Tips for staying motivated to exercise
It can be tough to stay motivated to exercise, but you can do things to enhance your motivation.
First, set achievable goals. Start small and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise routine. You also want to ensure you enjoy the exercise. You may have to try a few different activities before finding one you like. When you find a type of movement that doesn’t feel like a chore, you will find it much easier to stay motivated.
You can try exercising with friends or family as well. Making your fitness journey a social event means holding each other accountable and encouraging each other to keep motivated.
It can help if you create a daily routine that includes exercise, as it won’t feel as though you are adding more work to your day. You can even try tracking your progress to see your improvements and how well you are doing.
Habits that support lower cholesterol
Lowering cholesterol levels isn’t just about making dietary changes and exercising regularly. In addition, you need to create a healthy lifestyle and habits that support lower cholesterol.
When you experience stress, your body releases hormones that can raise your LDL cholesterol levels. Prolonged stressful periods can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or smoking, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Managing stress is an essential part of cholesterol management. Some practical stress-reducing activities include meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises or any other movement that promotes relaxation, such as a warm bath or reading.
Getting enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for your overall heart health and managing your cholesterol levels. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to higher LDL cholesterol levels, lower HDL cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease. Therefore, adults should aim for 7–9 hours of sleep a night to maintain optimal heart health.
Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease and can also negatively affect your cholesterol levels. Smoking damages the walls of your arteries, making it easier for cholesterol to build and form blockages. Additionally, smoking can lower your HDL levels.
So, quitting smoking is one of the most essential actions you can take to improve your heart health and manage your cholesterol levels.
Quitting smoking can be challenging, but resources and support are available to help you stop, such as smoking cessation programmes and nicotine replacement therapy.
Supplements that may help lower cholesterol
Supplements can play a role in cholesterol management, but you should not consider them a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Instead, you should aim to get all your vitamins and minerals through the foods you consume.
You must consult your doctor before taking any supplements, as they may interact with other medications or health conditions.
Some supplements that may help lower cholesterol levels include:
- Plant sterols and stanols supplements – These compounds are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and can help block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.
- Omega-3 fatty acid supplements – These healthy fats are found in fish oil, flaxseed and chia seeds and can help lower triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood.
- Fibre supplements – Soluble fibre, found in oats, fruits and vegetables, can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Supplements can also provide a concentrated source of soluble fibre.
- Niacin supplements – Also known as vitamin B3, niacin can help lower LDL cholesterol levels and raise HDL cholesterol levels. However, it can cause side effects such as flushing and liver damage, so you should only take it under medical supervision.
You should not rely on supplements unless advised by your doctor, as most people can get the right amount of nutrients when eating a well-balanced diet.
Get in touch with Echelon Health
If you have any concerns about your cholesterol levels or overall health, do not hesitate to contact our team at Echelon Health. We offer various health assessment packages, or you can build one to suit your specific needs.
Using our vast medical expertise and the best imaging technology available in the UK, we are dedicated to providing the most thorough health assessment imaginable.
One of the most thorough assessments available anywhere is our Platinum Assessment. Using the most cutting-edge imaging technology, it can identify up to 92% and 95% of the causes of early death in men and women, respectively.
This package offers a full health screening; the following tests and scans are included in the platinum package:
- Blood Tests
- CT Aorta
- CT Heart
- CT Coronary Angiogram
- CT Chest
- CT Pelvis
- CT Virtual Colonoscopy
- CT Bone Density
- CT Upright Skeleton
- MRI Brain
- MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram
- MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram
- MRI Prostate
- Ultrasound Thyroid
- Ultrasound Testes/Ovaries
- Digital Mammogram
- Full Body Mole Screen
Because health assessments can assist people in better understanding their health and taking action to improve it, Echelon Health focuses on providing the best available preventive full body check-ups. It is much easier to maintain your health and take care of yourself when your mind is entirely at ease.
Book an appointment today and take charge of your health.