High cholesterol is one of the major worries of most people. Most adults have higher than recommended cholesterol levels. We do not usually worry too much about heart diseases until we are middle-aged. But adults as young as 20 also need to watch cholesterol because high levels of LDL or bad cholesterol at a young age are more likely to cause the development of heart disease in the later years of life.
Foods that Lower Cholesterol
By eating healthy foods we can reduce the risk of developing heart disease and improve our health, without resorting to medicines. Though we cannot change our genes – a contributing factor to high cholesterol, we can definitely change our diets. Food significantly affects the cholesterol levels. Following are the top 3 foods that lower cholesterol:
This food can reduce total cholesterol & LDL cholesterol. Oatmeal and oat bran are important sources of dietary fiber, and they contain a mix of soluble and insoluble fibers. The active ingredient in oats is beta-glucans which lowers blood cholesterol. An intake of 40 grams of oat bran or 60 grams of oatmeal a day can bring about a 5% reduction on serum cholesterol This amount contains 3 grams of Beta glucan which helps to reduce cholesterol.
So begin your day with a bowl of hot oatmeal in the morning topped with nuts and fruits. It makes a filling and healthy breakfast. Ground oatmeal can also be added to soups or oat bran can also be mixed with wheat flour & made into chapattis.
Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel help reduce triglycerides, reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of blood clots. Around two servings of oily fish per week are recommended. Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish lower triglyceride levels and raise good cholesterol levels in the body. The way fish is prepared also makes a big difference in blood cholesterol levels. Bake or grill the fish to avoid eating unhealthy fats. If you do not eat fish, get your omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseeds or canola oil. Fish oil supplements are an alternative way of getting Omega-3 fatty acids.
The cholesterol-lowering effect of soy is well documented. Consuming at least 25 grams of soybean helps reduce total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol & triglycerides with a small increase in HDL (good)cholesterol. Soybeans have low glycemic index, and they help lower insulin levels & normalize blood sugar, which in turn helps prevent weight gain & reduces cholesterol level.
Lifestyle Changes to Control Cholesterol
However, in addition to these dietary modifications, it is also important to bring about a few lifestyle changes to keep your cholesterol levels under check.
Exercising adequately and regularly helps reduce triglycerides levels. Exercise stimulates the enzymes in the muscle and liver, which convert cholesterol to other forms like HDL or good cholesterol. Exercise has many benefits in addition to lowering cholesterol.
- It strengthens the heart
- It strengthens bones & muscles
- It aids weight loss
Remember, there is no need to do strenuous exercises. Activities such as walking, swimming, yoga , bicycling, jogging, or aerobics can be included in daily regime. If you have time constraints, just walk three times a week for 1 hour or 6 times a week for half an hour.
Quitting smoking improves HDL cholesterol level and reduces blood pressure. Smoking is addictive and linked to many types of cancer and heart diseases. Following are the effects of smoking on cholesterol:
Increase in bad cholesterol or LDL
Bad cholesterol gets deposited in the walls of the arteries. This buildup of cholesterol is known as plaque formation. It blocks the blood flow to the arteries and is the main culprit of heart diseases. Smoking elevates the LDL, bad cholesterol and adds to the risk of heart disease.
Decrease in good cholesterol or HDL
HDL or good cholesterol moves the bad cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver, from where it is eliminated from the body. Smoking however decreases this HDL cholesterol in the body, thus increasing the risk of heart disease.
There is an immediate drop in bad cholesterol and increase in good cholesterol, on quitting smoking, leading to better health and safe guarding against heart diseases.
Losing weight is not only important for lowering cholesterol but is an important part of improving overall health. Here are some tips:
- Eat 5-6 small meals in the day
- Switch to whole grains – whole wheat bread, brown rice and reduce refined carbs such as sugar and white flour
- Avoid fatty meats, full fat cheese and dairy, butter and cream
- Add heart healthy foods like vegetables, olive oil, nuts, oats, barley to your diet
- Protect your heart with daily exercise
- Drink green tea
- Manage stress with yoga, meditation, music and catching up with your hobbies
High cholesterol increases your risk of heart diseases. You can reduce cholesterol either with medication or with a change of eating habits & some lifestyle changes. You can try these three healthy foods & life style changes as suggested above even if you are already taking medications – as these changes will improve their cholesterol lowering effect.
To know more about how you can effectively reduce your high cholesterol levels give us a call on our toll free number 1-800-843-0206 to talk to our medical experts today and get a free consultation!