by Tracey Pollack
Let’s level about cholesterol since it’s a matter of high concern. See, high cholesterol increases your risk of serious medical conditions. But cholesterol is confusing because one type known as LDL is harmful, while another called HDL is helpful. The bad news is this “bad” LDL cholesterol is a waxy substance that can build up on the walls of your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. Yet “good” HDL cholesterol removes the bad cholesterol from your bloodstream to prevent it from clogging your arteries. While doctors can prescribe medications to help lower cholesterol levels, these can cause uncomfortable side effects, such as nausea, headaches and cramps. If you’d rather not deal with drugs or discomfort, these simple lifestyle changes can naturally do you a world of good.
Toss the Trans Fats
Trans fats are hidden in many store-bought processed foods, such as cookies, cakes, crackers, shortening and margarine. These fats may be good for food brands because they help a food last longer, but they’re bad for your cholesterol because they raise your LDL levels. Luckily, the FDA is starting to force food brands to remove these fatal fats. Want to avoid them altogether? Read nutrition labels when shopping and stay away from any products with “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” in the ingredient list. Simply reducing these bad fats can be good your cholesterol levels.
Don’t Wait to Lose Weight
If you’re carrying extra pounds, you need to scale back to improve your cholesterol. Being overweight can increase your risk of high cholesterol and many chronic medical conditions. Yet studies have shown that losing even a couple of pesky pounds can reduce LDL cholesterol, while increasing HDL levels. And it’s amazing how small changes can add up to big improvements. Take a walk instead of a nap. Crunch on fresh veggies instead of chips and cookies. Call a friend if you’re upset rather than calling for take-out. Take up these healthy habits and you’ll see the scale go down.
Fill Up on Soluble Fiber
To eliminate high cholesterol from your life, consume foods with soluble fiber because it eliminates it from your body. See, soluble fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream and removes it from your body. Studies show that adding just five to 10 grams of soluble fiber to your day can lower you LDL cholesterol level. You can find soluble fiber in all kinds of tasty foods, such as oats, whole grains, flax seeds, beans, fresh fruits like pears and berries, and veggies like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. So rather than filling prescriptions for pills, get your full of insoluble fiber.
A work-out can work wonders when you’re trying to improve your cholesterol. Not only does regular exercise increase your good HDL cholesterol level, but it also helps you lose weight, which lowers your LDL levels. But you don’t need to run a marathon or train for hours to get the benefits! Start by selecting activities you enjoy to avoid getting burned out on workouts. Consider exercising with a partner to make it a more social activity. Then work up to 30 minutes per day, five days a week, to get your cholesterol in better shape.
Be a Quitter
Sorry smokers, but it’s quitting time. According to the American Heart Association, lighting up lowers your HDL cholesterol levels, while raising your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Talk to your doctor about ways to give up the habit. And non-smokers should stay away from second-hand smoke to avoid any exposure.
With these stress-free lifestyle changes, there’s no need to search high and low for ways to naturally lower your cholesterol.