High cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart disease. Fortunately, lifestyle changes can often help lower your cholesterol levels naturally. Here are some strategies:
- Healthy Eating: A heart-healthy diet can help lower your cholesterol:
- Reduce Saturated Fats and Trans Fats: Saturated fats, found in red meat and full-fat dairy products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked goods and fried foods, can raise your cholesterol levels. Try to limit your intake of these fats.
- Increase Soluble Fiber: Foods high in soluble fiber can help lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
- Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods with omega-3 fatty acids can lower your cholesterol levels. Good sources of omega-3s include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts.
- Physical Activity: Regular exercise can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, while lowering LDL cholesterol. Try to engage in moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week. This can include activities like walking, running, biking, swimming, or strength training.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Losing excess weight can improve your cholesterol levels. Even a modest weight loss can make a significant difference.
- Quit Smoking: Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol levels, and the benefits occur quickly:
- Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike.
- Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function improve.
- Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
- Limit Alcohol: Moderate alcohol consumption can potentially lead to higher HDL cholesterol levels, but the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn’t already drink. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
It’s always a good idea to discuss any planned lifestyle changes with your healthcare provider, especially if you have high cholesterol or other risk factors for heart disease. They can provide personalized advice and guidance based on your specific needs and circumstances.