What’s the first thing you think of when you hear high cholesterol? You might think about your grandma, who has to take a pill every day to keep her heart healthy. Or maybe you think about a friend who had a stroke at age 45. In fact, high cholesterol is one of the leading causes of death in America today.
Most of the time, we get scared whenever we hear about high cholesterol. We don’t want to be someone who suffers a stroke at 45, so we take our grandma’s medicine and hope for the best.
So how do we avoid this scary scenario? We’ve got six tips to help you control your cholesterol—and keep yourself out of the hospital, so read on and learn how to lower your cholesterol levels today!
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that helps your body function properly by delivering nutrients to your cells and helping them grow. It also helps produce hormones like estrogen and testosterone (which are responsible for sexual development).
Your liver produces most of the cholesterol in your body, but some can come from food sources such as meat, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and seeds. When these foods are broken down by your digestive system and enter the bloodstream, they’re converted into cholesterol.
However, too much of it can build up in your arteries and form plaque. This buildup narrows the arteries and causes them to harden and thicken. This can lead to serious health problems like heart disease or stroke.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol levels go up when there’s too much of it in the bloodstream. This can happen if:
You eat fatty foods
Fatty foods are packed with calories, so they’re great for keeping you full and satisfied. But if you’re eating too much of them, it’s not only going to make it harder to lose weight—it could also cause a spike in your blood cholesterol levels.
You don’t exercise enough
A lot of people think that if they eat healthily, they won’t get high cholesterol. That’s not exactly true. The fact is, you have to have a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep your levels in check.
You’re drinking too much alcohol
Alcoholic beverages contain a lot of calories, and when you drink a lot of them, those calories can add up quickly—and not just in the form of fat. When your liver breaks down alcohol, it produces low-density lipoproteins (LDL), the bad kind. And if your levels are already high because of diet or genetics, those extra calories from booze can worsen things.
You smoke cigarettes
You’re not doing yourself any favors with that cigarette, pal. Smoking cigarettes is one of the most common causes of high cholesterol.
When you smoke cigarettes, your body produces LDL at a faster rate than normal. This can lead to high cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
You have a family history
If your family has a history of high cholesterol, there’s a chance you’ll be dealing with it too. If you were born to parents with high cholesterol, you’re likely to have higher levels. Why? Because genetics is a big part of how your body reacts to things like stress and diet.
How To Control High Cholesterol
It’s no secret that high cholesterol is a real problem—especially in the United States. In fact, 94 million adults have high cholesterol, and the number of people with it is on the rise.
Luckily, there are some steps that you can take to dial back the high cholesterol and make your life easier. Plus, they don’t all involve medication. Check out these six tips for controlling high cholesterol:
If you’re looking to lower your cholesterol, the first thing you should do is eat right. You can still enjoy the foods you love—just make them healthier! Replace butter with olive oil and use whole wheat flour when baking.
Watch out for hidden sources of fat in foods—like salad dressings and even baked goods—and choose options with less fat whenever possible. You should aim for no more than 20% of your total daily calories coming from fat. Any more than that could put you over the edge when it comes to high cholesterol levels. If you’re not sure what’s in your food, check the nutrition label and make sure it has less than 1 gram of fat per serving.
Moreover, eat more fruits and vegetables. The fiber in fruits and vegetables helps prevent your body from absorbing too much cholesterol from other foods, so make sure to load up on these!
One of the best ways to control your cholesterol levels is through exercise. Studies have found that even just a few minutes of exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 30%.
The best kind of exercise for lowering cholesterol is aerobic exercise. This includes running, cycling, swimming, and dancing. If you’re unsure where to start, talk to a personal trainer or fitness professional about what activities would work best for you.
If you don’t have time for a formal workout session every day, don’t worry! Just doing something active for at least 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Drink less alcohol
Alcohol is known to be one of the biggest culprits when it comes to high cholesterol. It’s very easy to overdo it, so it’s best to avoid drinking altogether if you want to keep your cholesterol down.
If you must drink alcohol, make sure you keep it under two drinks per day. Moreover, don’t mix different types of alcohol. Instead, drink alcohol with a meal. This will help slow down the absorption of your drinks and keep you from consuming too much at once.
Smoking cigarettes is one of the leading causes of high cholesterol. The nicotine in cigarettes increases your body’s production of bile acids, which can cause an increase in LDL. In addition, smoking also increases your blood pressure and reduces the amount of good cholesterol in your body.
Drink lots of water
You probably already know that drinking lots of water is good for you, but did you know it can help you control your levels? Because high cholesterol is caused by the accumulation of fat in your blood vessels, increasing your fluid intake will help flush out excess cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease. So, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day—don’t wait until you’re thirsty!
But how much water should you be drinking? Surprisingly, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how much water to drink every day—it really depends on how active you are. If you’re exercising regularly or living in a hot climate, you’ll need to drink more than if you’re just sitting at home all day. But generally speaking, most experts recommend that we all drink half our body weight in ounces each day—so if you weigh 150 pounds, that would mean drinking 75 ounces of water every day (or about 8 cups).
Taking supplements is one way to go if you’re looking for a natural way to keep your blood in check. There are several types of supplements that can help lower your cholesterol by improving the function of your liver. The best part is that they don’t have any side effects and are completely safe.
Here are some of the best supplements to take:
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is key in many diseases, including heart disease and high cholesterol. Inflammation can be reduced by taking fish oil supplements.
Psyllium is a soluble fiber from plant seeds such as flaxseed and psyllium husks. It has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels by binding bile acids in the intestine and preventing them from reabsorbing into the body. This helps lower 0your levels without affecting good levels like HDL cholesterol.
There are many ways to control your cholesterol levels. Whether through diet, exercise, or supplements, the key is finding a method that works for you.
We hope this guide has helped you understand how to control your levels. Remember, it’s not the end of the world if you have high cholesterol—you just need to be proactive about it!