What You Have to Know to Improve Your Cholesterol Now

Man with papers at the beginning of illustrating a textbook about what you have to know to improve your cholesterol now, surrounded by markers, on a wooden table.

Editors note: This is a sponsored post by 1md.org. 

When you hear the term cholesterol, you likely have negative thoughts. The truth is, we need cholesterol in our bodies, but high levels can be dangerous.

High cholesterol levels are the result of an unhealthy lifestyle or genetic abnormalities and can contribute to clogged arteries and other serious cardiovascular problems. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, but, thankfully, lifestyle changes can improve your health.

How to Improve Your Cholesterol

You can take medications to control cholesterol levels, but this is not the best option for everyone and often is best as a last resort. The healthier and more effective approach is to make a few lifestyle changes.

Once started and maintained, you can be assured of controlled cholesterol levels, a healthier heart, and a healthier you.

Eating Heart-Healthy Foods

Chicken stripes with hard boiled eggs and salad on a white plate, surrounded by a mason jar of water with mint leaf and slice of lemon.

The good news is that you can start eating healthy at any time. No matter how many years you have gone with bad food habits, the change to heart-healthy foods will benefit you at any stage in your life.

Choose healthier fats

Saturated fats are found in red meats and dairy foods and can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol levels. You want to choose leaner cuts of meat, low-fat dairy products and monounsaturated fats (olive and canola oils) instead.

Increase omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels as well as reduce triglyceride levels which reduces blood pressure. Good sources of omega-3s are fresh fish (like salmon), walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseed.

Remove trans fats

These reduce HDL and increase LDL, which is a dangerous combination that increases your risk of heart attacks. Trans fats are found in fried foods and many commercial products like cookies and crackers. Be sure to check the labels closely and avoid any foods with partially hydrogenated oils.

Add whey protein

This, along with casein, is a protein found in dairy items and is responsible for the many benefits of dairy. As a supplement, whey protein can reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels.

Increase soluble fiber

Both soluble and insoluble fiber have benefits for your heart, but soluble fiber also helps to lower LDL. This can be easily added to your diet with beans, lentils, fruit, vegetables, and oat bran.

Quit Smoking

Close up of young man outdoors, holding a lighter and a pack of cigarettes.

You need to stop smoking if you want to improve your cholesterol levels. Smoking lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol levels and increases your risk of coronary artery disease.

It also injures your blood vessels and increases the risk of developing blood clots, which contributes to atherosclerosis. Quitting not only improves your HDL levels but, within twenty minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease.

Within one year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker, and, after fifteen years, your risk is similar to a person that never smoked.

Lose Weight

Even just a few extra pounds can contribute to high cholesterol. Your levels will improve just by losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your weight.

The best way to approach this is to evaluate your eating habits and routine. Identify the challenges you have to losing weight and find ways to overcome them.

If you eat when you’re bored, try going for a walk instead. Don’t grab fast food for lunch each day, pack a healthy lunch and snacks.

Choose healthier snacks, such as carrot and celery sticks, plain popcorn, and do not just eat mindlessly. Be aware of when and what you are eating.

Always look for more ways to incorporate activity into your day.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Moderate physical activity can help to raise good cholesterol levels, so, with your doctor’s approval, you should aim to exercise at least thirty minutes a day. Exercise not only helps your metabolism, but it helps with weight loss.

You can find numerous exercise plans designed specifically for people seeking lowered cholesterol levels. These routines, like this 30-day plan, can help you maximize the investment of time and effort you put into your health.

Even ten-minute intervals of activity during the day can help, so long as you stick to the changes you are making. Be sure to choose activities that you will follow through on.

Possible ideas for adding exercise to a busy day can include:

  • Riding your bike to work instead of driving
  • Playing a favorite sport or going to a gym
  • Taking up swimming, which is both relaxing and a low-impact option
  • Take a walk during your breaks or lunch at work

Exercise can be tough, especially if it is not something you are used to. To stay motivated, find a friend to join you or join a group.

It is easier to stick to your plans when you have support and motivation. Remember that you can increase physical activity all though your day by choosing to walk instead of ride, or take stairs instead of the elevator.

You can even do some sit-ups or jumping jacks while watching your favorite show.

Moderate Your Alcohol Consumption

Close up of a man's hand, with his fingers on a glass of beer.

While moderate drinking has been linked to higher levels of HDL cholesterol, the benefits are not great enough to support the recommendation for people to start drinking, especially in consideration of numerous other negative health effects from drinking

If you drink alcohol, it is important to remember to do so in moderation. Too much can increase your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Healthy adult males under the age of 65 can have up to two drinks a day and men over 65 and women of all ages can have one drink a day to stay within the recommended guidelines.

The important thing to remember when it comes to making lifestyle changes is that you need to be consistent. Do not make changes that you will not stick to, because you and your health will end up in the same negative place you started.

Not only will your health falter, but you will be disappointed, which can cause you to take up unhealthy habits as a means of seeking comfort. In the event your doctor advises you to take medication, take this only as prescribed.

You can still make lifestyle changes, however, and these will help to ensure your medication dose stays low and may eventually go away, just like your cholesterol.

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