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Lifestyle Changes and Foods to Help Lower Cholesterol

December 10, 2021

Cholesterol has important functions in the body but can quickly cause serious health conditions when it gets out of out of balance. Healthy fats, Omega-3 rich foods, soluble fiber, exercise, weight loss, and quitting smoking can all help lower cholesterol levels.

Have you recently been told you need to lower your cholesterol? You are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this problem affects more than 93 million Americans. In fact, high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes and a major contributor to death for men and women in the United States.

Although cholesterol has many important functions and helps your body function, you only need a small amount for good health. Too much can put you at risk for serious medical conditions and affect your physical health—a major component to our overall health.

The good news is, experts suggest healthy lifestyle changes through diet and exercise can get you back to healthy levels of cholesterol, without the need for doctor visits or prescription medications.

With 2022 quickly approaching, now is the time to think about potential New Year’s resolutions. Here are some simple steps you can take now to improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease and other serious health conditions.

Say goodbye to unhealthy fats.

Eating certain types of fats can raise your cholesterol levels. Limiting these types of fats can improve your health. Fats and foods that cause high cholesterol include:

  • saturated fats found in beef and dairy products
  • trans fats found in fried foods
  • commercially processed foods

When in doubt, read the nutrition label.

Read your nutrition labels to choose healthier foods. Look for options that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to help lower cholesterol levels. For example, replacing foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils or canola oils with omega-3 fatty rich foods will directly lower your cholesterol levels. Foods with omega-3 and other healthy benefits include:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • lean meats
  • fish
  • oatmeal
  • avocados
  • tuna
  • whey protein

Eat more soluble fiber.

Because soluble fiber is not absorbed in the intestines, it can bind to cholesterol and remove it from the body. Eating just 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day can lower cholesterol levels by 5 to 11 percent.

An exercise a day keeps the doctor away.

Not only is exercise a win-win for heart health, but it also improves physical fitness, helps combat obesity, and ultimately reduces your cholesterol levels. Studies show 30 minutes of activity five days a week is enough to improve cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Keep in mind, the longer and more intense the exercise, the greater the benefit.

Put down that cigarette.

Smoking is not good for our health. It increases the risk of heart disease in several ways, including affecting how the body handles cholesterol. Tobacco hinders the body’s ability to send cholesterol where it is needed. This can damage immune cells and contribute to a faster development of clogged arteries.

Trim a few pounds.

Carrying even a few extra pounds can contribute to higher cholesterol levels, raising your chances of heart problems and other serious issues. Dieting and exercise can help reduce the amount of fat you have in your body. This makes you less likely to have inflammation and reverses insulin resistance so you can better regulate hormones. Every 10 pounds you are overweight causes your body to produce as much as 10 milligrams of additional cholesterol every day.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, have your doctor check them. A simple blood draw, taken after an overnight fast, is all that is required. Use the Sydney Health app or the Find Care tool to locate a doctor in your network.

Understanding your cholesterol levels and how you can improve them is key to building good habits for lifelong health. Healthy lifestyle changes, even small ones, can make a major difference.