Everyone want their heart to be healthy. You can first ensure this through healthy levels of cholesterol such as fats or lipids. If your cholesterol is creeping upward, your doctor has probably told you that diet and exercise could help to bring it down. But if you’d prefer to make just one change at a time to lower your LDL naturally, you might want to begin with your diet.
Low-density lipoprotein or LDL (bad) cholesterol contributes to plaque buildup along with triglycerides. High-density lipoprotein or HDL (good) cholesterol discourages plaque buildup. Plaque can threaten the blood supply to the heart, brain, legs or kidneys. This leads to heart attack, stroke or even death.
Lowering cholesterol has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. Even if you are taking a medication to lower your cholesterol levels, diet and exercise in addition can lead to optimal heart and blood vessel health.
The following tips are simple ways to help you reduce cholesterol and stay healthy.
1. Eat fresh vegetables
Choose at least one meatless meal per week. Substitute meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese for plant based protein such as beans, lentils or quinoa. Try these plant based proteins in salad, soup, stir fry. This helps decrease your saturated fat intake and increase your fiber intake. If you enjoy meatless meals, try to go meatless for one day per week!
2. Consume more fibre
Increase consumption of foods high in soluble fibre. Intake of soluble fiber can bind to bile – which is made up of cholesterol and remove it. Look for soluble fiber in oats, oat bran, ground flaxseed, barley, beans and legumes. Also consume fruits and root vegetables, as well as some whole-grain cereals.
3. Exercise – Get moving
Short intervals of regular exercise can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL. Maintain an ideal weight for lower blood pressure and heart disease risk. Exercise also improves heart health by helping to maintain a normal body weight. Obviously, it is ideal when you can manage cholesterol without medication.
4. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart-healthy benefits, including reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds.
5. Consume more nuts
Nuts help to lower cholesterol because they are high in monounsaturated fat. This form of fat lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol while maintaining HDL “good” levels. This can lower the risk of heart disease. Only eat a handful, though, because nuts are high in calories, especially if they are coated in sugar or chocolate.
6. Lose weight
Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Small changes add up. If you drink sugary beverages, switch to tap water. If you’re overweight or obese, lose the extra fat. Weight loss helps lower bad (LDL). Even a small to moderate weight loss is great. Look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office. Take walks during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities, such as cooking or working in your garden.
7. Reduce or cut down alcohol intake
Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL. But the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn’t already drink. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.
8. Reduce stress
Stress can raise blood pressure, which can lead to heart and blood vessel disease. Stress reduction can be fun. Take a break from your usual routines of daily living. Practice simple and convenient methods to reduce stress such as meditation, biofeedback, and relaxation exercises.
9. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level. The benefits occur quickly as soon as you quit.