Making healthy eating choices and increasing exercise are important first steps in improving your cholesterol. For some people, particularly for those that high cholesterol runs in their family, cholesterol-lowering medication (statin) may also be needed to reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Use the information provided here to start a conversation with your doctor about how cholesterol affects your heart attack and stroke risk and what you can do to lower your risk.
For those who don’t have any signs of cardiac or vascular disease treatment should begin with exercise, weight loss, a low-fat diet and, if applicable, diabetes management. A 6-month trial is usually appropriate to indicate whether lifestyle changes are enough or if medication needs to be added.
Let’s summarize what affects cholesterol:
- Fatty food - eating too much saturated fat, found mostly in animal products, and too much cholesterol, found only in animal products
- Heredity - genes play a role in influencing the levels
- Weight - excess weight tends to increase the levels
- Exercise - regular physical activity may not only lower LDL cholesterol, but it may increase the level of desirable HDL cholesterol
- Smoking - cigarette smoking lowers HDL cholesterol
- Age and gender - cholesterol levels naturally rise as men and women age. Menopause is often associated with increased LDL cholesterol in women.
Tips to Optimize your Cholesterol:
- Read food labels and choose foods with low cholesterol and saturated trans fat.
- Limit your intake of red meat and dairy products made with whole milk to reduce your saturated and trans fat. Choose skim milk, low fat or fat-free dairy products. Limit fried food, and use healthy oils in cooking, such as olive oil.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Increase the amount of fiber you eat. A diet high in fiber can help lower cholesterol levels by as much as 10%.
- Lose extra weight. A weight loss of 10% can go a long way to lowering your risk of or reversing hyperlipidemia.
- Exercise, walk or run at least 3 times a week.
- Quit smoking