Cholesterol is a component of fats and lipids that are found in many animals and animal based food product. Cholesterol is a natural part of your body. However, if you have high cholesterol, you’re actually at risk for heart diseases.
It’s always a good idea to get a full blood test every half a year or so. This will help you monitor your cholesterol levels. If your cholesterol levels are higher than usual, here are the top things you need to do:
1. Change Your Eating Habits
The main objective in controlling your cholesterol is to increase good cholesterol ( also known as High Density Lipoprotein or HDL) and minimize bad cholesterol ( LDL, or Low Density Lipoprotein). You can do this by changing your diet. There are foods that you should eat more of and foods that you should stay away from.
Foods That You Can Eat
- Oats: Oats are high in fiber, which can help absorb excess lipids in your body. Oats are also low in calories so they make a very good breakfast food. You can eat them with yogurt or milk with some fruit thrown in for a healthy, balanced meal.
- Whole grains: There are many whole grains that are high in fiber apart from oats. These include rye, barley, buckwheat and bulgur. Many of these grains are made into bread. So the next time you go bread hunting, try and find one that’s not made of refined wheat flour. Instead, go for bread made with whole grain.
- Nuts: Nuts have the ability to lower LDL by up to 5%. Whenever you feel like having a snack, eat a handful of peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and the like instead of reaching or sweets like cakes, chocolate or candy.
- Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits and other fruits like berries have something called pectin which is a fiber. High fiber fruits and vegetables will really help your heart health and control the levels of LDL in your body.
- Salmon and Tuna: Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help to prevent heart disease. It also helps to control the levels of LDL in your blood stream. These fish are a better alternative compared to red meats like pork, beef and mutton which can raise the levels of LDL in your bloodstream.
- Soy products: Soybeans and other beans like kidney beans, mung beans, chickpeas and more are very high in fiber and low in calories. Soy products like soy milk and tofu are also high in these fibers, as well as amino acids that can help decrease LDL in your blood stream.
Of course, in addition to foods that you have to eat, there are also foods that you have to avoid. These foods drive up the LDL in your blood, which isn’t what you want. These foods are often very delicious, so it may be a little difficult to resist them at first.
Instead of giving all of them up at once, you should try gradually cutting them out of your diet. Slowly replace these foods with healthier options listed above, which include nuts, fruits and grains. Here are some of the things that you should minimize:
- Trans fat: Trans fat is exactly what will be broken down into LDL, so learn to read the labels of your snacks. Trans fat is usually found in cakes, muffins, potato chips, cookies and the like, especially those that are produced in mass quantities.
- Saturated fats: Saturated fats are found in red meat and dairy products such as cream, cheese, milk and eggs. You don’t have to cut them out completely. However, you should limit your intake if you have high cholesterol. Some dairy products have low fat alternatives, which are much better. So the next time you go grocery shopping, switch your regular milk with low fat milk and fat trimmed cheese.
2. Increase Physical Activity
The best way to incorporate more physical exercise into your daily life is to start small. You don’t have to start with a full hour of serious workout. Again, just like your diet, you can start with small changes. It’s recommended that you set an exercise goal of 30 minutes at least 3-4 days a week. However, if you’re not a very active person, here are some ways you can start being more active:
- Use the stairs up to your office or apartment. Start with one or two flights and build up from there.
- Take a walk to your lunch destination during lunch hour instead of driving there.
- Take a bicycle to work instead.
- Join a gym. This is one of the best ways to motivate yourself, since you already paid the membership fees.
- Play your favorite sport, whether it’s tennis, swimming, basketball or anything else.
- Join a sports club and learn a self defense or martial art.
The end goal of getting more active is of course to lose weight in the end. You should aim to lose about half a kilogram each month, or about 1 kilogram every two months. This is a healthy weight lose rate. Losing too much weight in too short a time isn’t good for your body, so aim for a realistic goal.
3. Give Up Those Smokes
Smoking tends to drive up your blood pressure, which makes it difficult on your heart. It also increases your risk of developing heart problems. Smoking introduces a lot of toxic chemicals into your bloodstream. In those with a high level of cholesterol, these toxins keep the level of good fats or HDL low.
Giving up smoking for several weeks will lead to a higher amount of HDL in your body, which is better for your heart in the long term.
4. Be Happy and Laugh More
A recent study has found that laughing actually helps to increase the amount of HDL which is good cholesterol in your body. This may be due to the fact that laughing helps to decrease the amount of stress hormones which help push up your bad cholesterol.
Additionally, happy people tend to eat less fatty and sweet foods as they have less cravings for snacks.
If you find out that you have cholesterol problems, don’t feel sad or discouraged. There are ways to improve your health and ensure that you live a long and healthy life.