For those who are worried about high cholesterol levels, there are easy ways to keep your cholesterol in check. Because cholesterol can lead to many health problems, it is important to keep it at a healthy level. However, it is also important to understand how cholesterol is beneficial so that you don’t avoid it completely.
There are different aspects to cholesterol and you should learn what they all mean. Some cholesterol is good, but another type should be avoided as much as possible. Cholesterol can be controlled by watching the type of foods you eat as well as your lifestyle choices.
Understand the Numbers
Some people think that all cholesterol is bad, but this is not true. The American Heart Association reports that cholesterol is actually created by the body and is used to keep you healthy. You also obtain cholesterol from the foods that you eat.
Before you can even focus on keeping cholesterol in check, you need to know what your cholesterol numbers are. Talk to your physician about getting a cholesterol blood test. You will find out your total cholesterol as well as your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.
In general, HDL is known as good cholesterol and you need it for your body to function correctly. LDL is considered to be bad cholesterol and too much of it can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and heart attack. You want your total cholesterol to be below 200 mg/dL according to the Mayo Clinic. For LDL, ideal levels are below 70 mg/dL. Your HDL levels should be more than 60 mg/dL.
When you focus on controlling your cholesterol, you want to focus mostly on lowering the LDL levels but you also want to do what you can to increase your levels of HDL. If you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, you should get your cholesterol checked more regularly.
One of the best ways to control your cholesterol levels is to change your eating habits. Because cholesterol is only found in animal products, you really need to be cautious as to what types of animal protein you eat, especially if you are at high risk of increased cholesterol levels.
Although you don’t need to deprive yourself and avoid all fatty meats, you do want to keep their consumption to a minimum. Focus on lower-fat protein products like skim milk, white skinless chicken, ham, and low-fat fish.
Foods that contain saturated fats will increase your levels of LDL, so you should focus your diet on fats that are unsaturated. The Harvard School of Public Health guides you to foods that are made mostly with good fats. These include fish, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils.
You should also switch your carbohydrate diet to contain mostly whole grains and high fiber items. Foods that have whole grains and fiber will fill you up for longer periods of time and soluble fiber also helps to lower LDL levels. Increasing your intake of vegetables and fruit will ensure that you are getting a good amount of soluble fiber.
It may seem like exercise is the answer to everything, but there is a reason for it. Exercising is one of the best things that you can do to keep your cholesterol levels in check. You don’t have to be a rock star athlete, however. All it takes is around 30 minutes of moderate activity, five to seven days a week.
You should focus on activities that you enjoy and that you can sustain so that you stick with it, as regular exercise is necessary for controlling your cholesterol levels. Some ideas include biking, swimming, running, tennis, or walking. If you can’t fit in 30 minutes continuously, break it up into smaller chunks such as three ten-minute sessions or six five-minute ones throughout the day.
Although this is not an easy thing, one of the best ways to control cholesterol is to stop smoking. Smoking actually increases the levels of LDL in your blood as well as decreases the levels of HDL. This is completely opposite of what you want your levels to be at.
Once you stop smoking, your body will immediately reverse the cholesterol levels. The LDL cholesterol will start to decrease and your HDL levels will increase. Since HDL helps to remove the fat in your blood and bring it to the liver to get rid of it, by quitting smoking you will already start reversing the process that can lead to heart disease.
Some may be happy to hear that drinking alcohol in moderation can help increase HDL levels by 10%, according to WebMD. This doesn’t mean that you should go overboard, however, as excessive drinking leads to a number of other issues.
Moderate drinking generally means one drink daily for females and two drinks maximum for males. If you don’t currently drink, you should not start, as the benefits would probably not balance out the negatives.