Your body requires some cholesterol to make hormones and form the structure of cells. However, having too much cholesterol can pose serious health risks. High cholesterol doesn’t have outward signs, but does silent internal damage that puts you at risk of angina (chest pain), peripheral artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Cholesterol moves through your blood on proteins called lipoproteins. There are high-density lipoproteins and low-density lipoproteins.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are considered “good.” High levels of HDL can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
When you have too much cholesterol, you have high levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. Excessive levels of LDL raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. LDL cholesterol clogs up the walls of your arteries, so blood doesn’t flow well or gets blocked altogether.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol by the team at South Plains Rural Health Services, they suggest the following steps to get your levels under control. If these lifestyle changes don’t help, you may benefit from medication to help lower your cholesterol levels. If you’re already on medications to lower your cholesterol, these steps will help improve your cholesterol-lowering effect.
Focus on heart-healthy foods
Your diet can help bring your cholesterol levels into check. Here’s what you can do:
Manage your fats
Reduce your consumption of saturated fats, which are found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy. Eating less saturated fat can reduce your low-density lipoprotein. Eliminate trans fats, like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, altogether. These fats raise your overall cholesterol levels.
Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These heart-healthy fats are found in fatty fish, like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
Eat more soluble fiber
Soluble fiber literally scrubs cholesterol from your bloodstream. Get it in foods like oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, apples, and kidney beans.
Seek out whey protein
Whey protein is found in dairy products, particularly low-fat milk and protein powder supplements. Whey protein can lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels.
Increase your physical activity
Exercise has a powerful effect on your cholesterol levels. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times each week. If you’re new to exercise, build up gradually and in ways that support your current fitness limitations. Take a brisk walk, ride a bike, head to a dance class, or swim laps.
Quit smoking and limit alcohol
Quitting smoking provides incredible heart-health benefits. When you quit, your HDL (good) cholesterol levels improve.
Moderate alcohol use has a potentially positive effect on your HDL cholesterol levels. But, too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure and heart failure.
Drop excess pounds
If you’re overweight, losing extra pounds can reduce your cholesterol levels. Adopting a heart-healthy diet and increasing physical activity is a great start. Reach out to us if you need medical support in losing weight, but you can always start with small changes like cutting back on soda, eating smaller portions, and choosing low-fat foods.
If you’re due for a cholesterol screening or have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, reach out to our team at South Plains Rural Health Services. Call the nearest location today, or use the online tool to set up an appointment.