Cholesterol illustrates the old saying about having too much of a good thing: While your body definitely needs some cholesterol to function the way it’s supposed to, too much cholesterol can cause a lot of problems, like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and even dementia.
Unfortunately, roughly 86 million American adults have high cholesterol, defined as total cholesterol higher than 200 mg/dL. About 25 million have dangerously high cholesterol measuring more than 240 mg/dL.
All of these women and men are at risk of cholesterol-related health problems.
The good news: Medications like statins help lots of people manage high cholesterol, so they can reduce health risks like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. But what if you don’t want to take those medications or you’re sensitive to their effects? Lifestyle changes can definitely help.
At CN Internal Medicine, our team is dedicated to helping patients in Alexandria and Lansdowne, Virginia, explore all of their options for managing high cholesterol. In this post, we offer three simple things you can try to lower high cholesterol and help keep it within a healthy range.
Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs for good health and proper function. But you still get plenty of additional cholesterol in many of the foods you eat.
The goal is to decrease foods with “bad” LDL cholesterol — the kind of cholesterol that blocks your arteries — while increasing foods that boost your “good” HDL cholesterol — the kind that can actually help clear away LDL.
To lower your LDL levels, avoid foods high in saturated fats, like full-fat dairy, red meat, deep-fried foods, and processed foods. Instead, opt for lean meat, nuts, low-fat dairy, fish, and olive or avocado oils. Filling up on fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps, too.
For a boost in HDL, include foods with healthy omega-3 fats. These include salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and pure olive oil. Compounds called plant sterols found in nuts and most vegetables and fruits can help by blocking absorption of LDL cholesterol.
Americans are notoriously sedentary, spending long hours each day sitting at their desks, in their cars, and in front of their TVs, computers, or smartphones during their leisure hours. While all this sitting is certainly relaxing, it’s also really bad for your health and for your cholesterol levels.
Adding moderate exercise to your daily routine on most days of the week helps improve cholesterol levels in several ways. First, it helps improve levels of HDL cholesterol that allows your body to get rid of more LDL cholesterol.
Second, moderate exercise lowers levels of LDL cholesterol by helping your body absorb fewer LDL particles and eliminate more through your liver and bowel movements. Some studies show regular moderate exercise could reduce LDL levels by as much as 10%.
Everyone feels a little stressed from time to time, but today’s fast-paced lifestyles have made chronic stress a daily reality for many Americans.
Unfortunately, persistent or chronic stress contributes to high cholesterol. Researchers aren’t sure why stress raises cholesterol levels, but they believe it might be related to how people react to stress.
\For instance, when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to eat unhealthy foods, get less exercise, and turn to smoking (another cause of high cholesterol). Reducing stress can help you improve these other behaviors, reducing cholesterol while improving your health in other key ways.
To combat stress, try meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or simply taking time from your daily routine for a hobby you really enjoy.
Taking charge of your health without medication can be a powerful experience. But if your cholesterol levels are high despite your best efforts, we may recommend medicines to help lower your cholesterol.
Even if we prescribe medicine, the three steps on this list can help minimize your dosage while providing lots of other healthy benefits.
To find out what your cholesterol numbers are and learn about these and other ways to keep cholesterol under control, call us today at 703-212-9190 or request an appointment online with our team at CN Internal Medicine.