A heart-healthy lifestyle change is exactly what you need to combat high cholesterol. A balanced lifestyle is not only limited to people with high cholesterol; it is also a need for every individual who loves to live a healthy life.
Healthy eating, regular physical activity, and weight management are the keys to a balanced lifestyle.
What is cholesterol?
To combat cholesterol, it is important to understand what cholesterol really is. Let us help you explain it in non-scientific terms. It is a natural waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood. Cholesterol is an essential part of your body. Moreover, it plays a role in building healthy cells and making certain hormones. Your body makes its own cholesterol, and you can either get it from your diet, especially foods that come from animals.
There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as bad cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as good cholesterol. To function properly, your body needs some cholesterol. However, having it in excess can be harmful in the sense that it can stick to the walls of your arteries and narrow or even block them. Leading you towards the risk of heart disease.
Causes of High Cholesterol
Some causes of high cholesterol include:
- High intake of unhealthy fats (saturated fats and trans fats) Saturated fats are low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly found in foods such as deli-style meats, cream, fatty meats, butter, coconut oil, ice cream, deep-fried food, and commercially baked products.
- Other than saturated fats, trans fats also contribute to high cholesterol levels. They are commonly labelled as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Foods such as margarines, crackers, packed cookies, and cakes are made up of trans fats. By January 1, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration had banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
- Low intake of healthy fats: healthy fats tend to promote good HDL cholesterol levels. Foods containing healthy fats include fish, nuts, olives, avocado, seeds, and cooking oils made from seeds or plants.
- Low intake of soluble fibre: Food rich in dietary fibre, particularly soluble fibre, can help prevent your digestive tract from absorbing cholesterol. It further reduces the amount of bad (LDL) cholesterol in your blood. You can include fibre-containing foods in your diet by choosing healthy options such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, seeds, and nuts.
- Low levels of exercise and physical activity
- Being overweight or having too much body fat around your lower body part
- Genetics: your family history of high cholesterol levels If several young people in your family are diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, it shows the pattern that cholesterol runs in your genetics. This is a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. It’s best to recommend it to your doctor as soon as possible if you think you might be affected.
- High consumption of alcohol can increase your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
A Step Towards a Healthy Lifestyle to Combat Cholesterol
A balanced lifestyle includes a healthy diet, increased physical activity, and reducing weight.
A) Eat heart-healthy
Diet to reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health:
1) Plenty of soluble fibre
- Fruits: bananas, apples, pears, oranges, and prunes
- Whole-grain cereals: oat bran and oatmeal
- Legumes: kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts, and lima beans
2) Vegetables and Fruits
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits
- Foods fortified with sterols and stanols
- Collard Greens
3) Fish: high in omega-3 fatty acids
Fish that are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Tuna (canned or fresh)
Try to eat these fish twice a week.
5) Limited salt
- About 1 teaspoon of salt a day.
- It helps lower your blood pressure, which causes heart disease.
6) Avoid alcohol
- Alcohol adds extra calories, which can lead to weight gain.
- Being overweight can raise your LDL level and lower your HDL level.
7) Quite smoking
It brings immediate benefits:
- Improves HDL level
- Within months, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve.
- Your blood pressure and heart rate recover from quitting excessive smoking.
- Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
Nutrition labels can help you figure out how much fat, saturated fat, sodium, and fibre are in the foods that you buy.
B) Improve Your Lifestyle By Increasing Your Physical Activity
Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can promote high-density lipoprotein (HDL). With your doctor’s advice, give yourself at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.
Adding short intervals of exercise several times a day can help you lose weight. Consider:
- Taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour
- Playing a favourite sport
- Riding your bike to work
To stay motivated, consider maintaining a routine or joining a gym.
C) Lose weight
- High calories contribute to high cholesterol.
- Switch to tap water to substitute for sugary beverages.
- Snack on air-popped popcorn or pretzels in a limited amount.
- If you crave dessert, try jelly beans, sherbet, or candies with little or no fat.
Try to incorporate as many healthy activities into your lifestyle as possible. Instead of taking elevators, try to use stairs or park farther from your office. Take walks during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities, such as cooking or doing yardwork.
Of course, it’s not easy to maintain a balanced lifestyle. It requires a lot of struggle to expand the variety of foods or get used to new textures and flavours. But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and heart disease. Moreover, it helps the arteries stay flexible and responsive and keeps blood pressure in check.