How to: Maintaining Healthy Cholesterol Levels
1. Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Use healthy ways of cooking like grilling and oven baking instead of frying
- Drain oil from cooked dishes like mince meat
- Trim the fat off meat and take the skin off chicken
- Choose low fat dairy foods & low fat spreads made from sunflower or olive oil
- Eat more wholegrain varieties of cereals, breads, pasta and rice
- Choose jacket potatoes
- Eat more vegetables and fruit
- Reduce saturated fats - found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol
- Eliminate trans fats - often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds
- Increase soluble fibre - found in oatmeal, kidney beans, brussels sprouts, apples and pears
- Add whey protein - found in dairy products. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers total cholesterol levels and blood pressure
2. Stop smoking
Quitting smoking improves your levels of good cholesterol. The benefits occur quickly:
- Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike
- Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve
- Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker
3. Aim for a healthy weight
Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol levels. If you drink sugary drinks, switch to water. Snack on air-popped popcorn — but keep track of the calories. Craving something sweet? Try sherbet or sweets with little or no fat, like jellybeans.
4. Get physically active
Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise your levels of good cholesterol. Try to work up to:
- at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week
- vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes 3 times a week
Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight.
- Take a brisk daily walk during your lunch break
- Cycle to work
- Play a sport you enjoy
- Take the stairs
- Park further away
- More standing activities, like cooking and gardening
5. Drink less alcohol
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means:
- up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men over 65
- up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger
Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and strokes.
6. Drink plenty of water
It is recommended to drink at least 8 glasses a day. Drinking water can actually thin the blood, helping it to pump more smoothly.
When the body is dehydrated, the blood becomes acidic which can lead to a build-up in levels of bad cholesterol. Drinking plenty of water will keep your blood ways clean and eliminate excess build-up of cholesterol waste.
7. Learn to relax and reduce stress
Studies have shown that your level of stress can cause an increase in bad cholesterol, albeit indirectly.One study found that stress is linked to having a higher body weight, and a less healthy diet, which are known risk factors for high cholesterol.
Make sure to take time out for yourself and practice self-care to reduce stress levels.
8. Check up
Make sure you have regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks with your GP.
Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren't enough to lower cholesterol levels. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed while continuing your lifestyle changes.