The expression, ‘watch your cholesterol!’ has now become an adage, for a reason. This is especially true for people living with heart conditions. Over 100 million Americans over the age of 20 have been found to have unhealthy levels of cholesterol. There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. LDL Cholesterol is the bad one. It collects in the walls of your blood vessels and can put your heart at risk. This form of cholesterol is also the reason behind heart attacks since it can result in a sudden blood clot.
For those wanting to know whether they have higher than normal levels of LDL cholesterol, a simple blood test can check these levels. Eating too many foods that contain high amounts of fat can result in high cholesterol levels, also called hypercholesterolemia or hyperlipidemia.
Key life changes recommended by physicians, registered dieticians and exercise physiologists can help a person lower their cholesterol levels. These changes can also help shed excess weight and promote a healthy heart. They’re also relatively easy to make and here are 15 ways that show how to make lower LDL cholesterol a possibility.
1. Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Studies by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and various other health institutes have confirmed that the more fruit and vegetables we eat, the healthier we are. Fruit and vegetables not only taste good, but they also contain essential nutrients and vitamins.
There are two types of fiber in food. These are called soluble and insoluble. Both of these types have health benefits for the heart but the first also reduces LDL levels. Fruit and vegetables are one source of this type of fiber. Fruit and vegetables rich in soluble fiber include sweet potato, aubergines, broccoli, apples, strawberry, and prunes.
Fruit and vegetables are also low in saturated fat. For this reason, eating more of them helps to keep the intake of this type of fat low. It has been suggested eating fruit and vegetables from across the color spectrum, leafy greens, yellow squashes, orange carrots, bright red tomatoes, blueberries. As a rule, the richer the color, the more nutritious the fruit or vegetable is.
2. Eat Foods Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fats are known as a natural wonder of the food world, in that they are beneficial to health for many reasons. They ward off heart disease, dementia, and many other diseases. They also lower cholesterol. They reduce triglycerides, which are a type of fat in your blood, and can also lessen blood pressure. These fatty acids can be found in ‘oily fish’, such as sardines, salmon, tuna, and herring. Other good sources of Omega-3 include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds.
Not only do they lower bad cholesterol but they also raise good cholesterol by as much as 4 percent. If you’re not used to eating fish, there is a wealth of information available online. This includes plenty of recipes that will show you how to select the right kind at the store, prepare it for cooking when at home, and produce from it a dish that everyone will love eating.
3. Snack On Nuts
If you are a snacker by nature and looking for something nutritious to snack on which will lower cholesterol levels instead of increasing them, then why not try nuts. There are many varieties of nuts and they come prepared in different ways, giving nut enthusiasts a selection to choose from. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that people eating a handful of whole walnuts six days a week for a month successfully lowered their LDL cholesterol by 9.3%.
These super-healthy foods also contain other nutrients, such as vegetable protein, fiber, heart-healthy unsaturated fats, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, natural plant sterols, and other plant nutrients. Other options for nut lovers include almonds and cashews. Since nuts are also high in calories, it is advisable to manage portion sizes. Experts suggest a shot-and-a-half is a good portion size. Measure your portion using a shot glass.
4. Eat Fewer Refined Grains
Many Americans live on a staple diet of ‘white’ food options, such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, and white-flour foods, like muffins. These contain refined flour and few nutrients. Add to this an accompaniment of croissants, pretzels, bagels, dried cereals, crackers, chips, and tortillas. These hyper-processed foods are filled with sugar, salt and fat, and can be detrimental to your health especially in excessive quantities. Studies confirm the benefits of eating whole-grain foods, as opposed to their ‘white’ and processed variants.
For example, a Harvard University study showed that women who ate two to three servings of whole-grain varieties each week were 30 percent less likely to die from a heart attack or develop heart disease compared with those who ate whole-grain foods once a week. Couscous, polenta, quinoa and wild rice are interesting variants to introduce into one’s diet to create healthy variety and to lower LDL Cholesterol.
5. Get Moving
Exercise is the perfect complement to any attempt to take charge of your health. Regular exercise will dramatically improve your cholesterol profile. For a beginner, 30 minutes of walking most days of the week will dramatically improve a person’s well-being and strengthen the heart. Other ways to exercise might include finding a sport that you enjoy like dancing, swimming laps in a pool at the gym, or even riding a bike, or going for a jog. If your motivation to get fit is low, why not join an exercise group or find an exercise buddy.
Every activity adds up and is helpful to overall health. Even taking the stairs instead of the lift at work or at the store, or doing a few sit-ups while watching television can make a difference. Whatever form of exercise, it is recommended doing this regularly. Research shows that 150 minutes of exercise weekly is optimal.
6. Eat Chocolate
Everyone loves a piece of chocolate. The good news is that some chocolate in moderation is not so bad for you after all. Chocolate is a powerful antioxidant which helps to build HDL cholesterol levels. This ‘good’ cholesterol does wonders in controlling levels of LDL. Studies have shown that ingesting cocoa powder can increase levels of beneficial blood components by as much as 24 percent over a 12-week period.
Researchers have advised choosing dark or bittersweet chocolate. This contains three times as many antioxidants as the milk chocolate variety. These antioxidants prevent blood platelets from sticking together and may even keep arteries unclogged.
The great thing about chocolate is there doesn’t need to be too much speculation as to how to include it in one’s diet. A hearty cup of cocoa before bedtime, sweetened with honey, and spiced with cinnamon, might be just the thing your body and soul needs.
7. Stop Smoking
Quitting smoking might be a difficult thing to do, but the benefits are numerous. One of these is an increase in HDL levels by as much as 10 percent. Smoking is extremely hazardous to health and cholesterol levels, with research showing that it irritates blood vessels. The immune cells in smokers can’t return cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels to the blood so that they can be transported to the liver. This damage is connected with the tar from the tobacco, rather than the nicotine.
This damage contributes to the formation of clogged vessels and an increase in bad cholesterol in smokers. There are various organizations with professionals available to assist a person who wants to give up smoking. Support groups can also benefit a person who is battling to quit with their own efforts. Faith groups can also help deter bad health habits, such as smoking.
8. Get Good Quality Sleep
Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy body and sound mind. It keeps all systems in check and during the waking hours, helps a person to make better choices. These include better decisions about nutrition. During the sleeping hours, the body also heals itself and this can impact positively on overall health, including cholesterol levels.
This healing effect extends to the cardiovascular system, as well as the musculoskeletal system, meaning that on waking, a person is strengthened and revitalized to undertake healthy practices, such as running or walking, and other forms of exercise.
All of these reduce the unhealthy effects of LDL in the person’s system. While it is tempting to burn the candle at both ends and cram as much into a single day, a well-regimented sleeping regime will keep one in optimal condition to face life’s tasks with efficiency, in the end saving on time and reducing health-related risks.
9. Eat More Beans and Legumes
It has been confirmed that eating beans and legumes lowers bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Studies show as much as a five percent reduction of bad cholesterol in persons eating on average one serving of legumes per day for a period of six weeks. According to nutritionists, one serving of these is about three-quarters of a cup of cooked beans or legumes. Alternative options include chickpeas and peas. All of these are beneficial to heart health and overall health.
These can be eaten in a variety of ways, such as salads, soups, or stewed. There are many available recipes that offer different serving suggestions and many suggest beans and lentils to be superfoods as they keep blood sugar level while facilitating optimal physical well-being. Think of it this way, an entire plant is supported by the nutrition of a single bean or lentil. As such, they are, though small, nutrient powerhouses.
10. Cut Out Trans Fats
Trans fats have been in the media spotlight for the negative impact they have on health. Still, many people have continued to consume these. One of the health hazards associated with these is the effect that they have on cholesterol levels.
There are unsaturated fats that have been modified through a process called hydrogenation. This process is used to make them more stable as an ingredient. Many kinds of margarine and shortenings consist of partially hydrogenated oils.
The downfall to these is that hydrogenated trans fats are not handled by the body in the same way as fats. They can increase LDL. At the same time, they decrease HDL by as much as 20 percent. It is estimated that a fairly large percentage of deaths from heart diseases occur as a result of trans fats. To find out whether what you are consuming contains these, it is advisable to read product labels.