There seems to be an endless drumbeat to lower your cholesterol, and for good reason.
More than 30 percent of adults in the United States have high cholesterol, but only half of them are getting treatment for the condition. These numbers should be frightening because high cholesterol is one of the biggest risks for heart disease.
Lowering your cholesterol should be a priority if it is at dangerous levels. Here are a few things to know about cholesterol and how you can lower it.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance that is found throughout the body and is necessary for various functions. The body produces some cholesterol, and it is also ingested with food. The so-called “bad cholesterol” is LDL cholesterol, which can form plaque in the arteries if it is too high. HDL cholesterol is known as “good cholesterol” and helps to remove LDL cholesterol from arteries.
Generally, LDL cholesterol levels should remain low, while high levels of HDL are good. Together, a healthy total cholesterol level should be less than 170 mg/dL, and anything over 200 mg/dL is too high.
Lower your cholesterol through diet
A good diet is one of the best ways to achieve healthy cholesterol levels. Eating the right foods can not only lower LDL cholesterol, but it can also raise HDL levels. Consider a diet low in fat, especially animal fats that are high in cholesterol. Eat more fiber, fruits and vegetables, and cut back on sweets.
“Dietary changes are a crucial way to help keep LDL cholesterol levels down,” says Marissa Padilla, administrator at Castle Manor Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. “Cut back on saturated fats by eating limited amounts of red meat and avoiding processed foods. Stick to healthier unsaturated fats, which you can find in olive oil, fish, avocados and other sources.”
Exercising can help bring cholesterol down
Starting an exercise program can help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol. It won’t take much to see a difference in your cholesterol levels — as little as a 5 percent weight loss can change your cholesterol numbers. Exercise also helps to raise your HDL numbers. A variety of exercise programs will be beneficial, so just aim for 30 minutes of exercise on most days.
Get more sleep
Your body needs adequate sleep to recharge and for some functions to perform properly. Research has shown that not getting enough sleep could affect your cholesterol levels. One study found that people who slept less than seven hours each night had lower HDL levels. So If you’re a night owl who still needs to be at work by 9 every day, it’s time to bite the bullet and set yourself a bedtime.
Medication may be needed
Changing your diet and adding more exercise should be the first choice in lowering your cholesterol, but it may not be enough for some people. In some cases, people may have a genetic predisposition for higher LDL cholesterol. These people may eat a healthy diet, but their body continues to make too much LDL cholesterol. If diet and exercise are not enough to bring your cholesterol levels into a healthy range, medication may be needed to lower your LDL cholesterol.
High cholesterol should scare you, but lowering it shouldn’t feel like an impossible task. Any steps you take toward lower cholesterol will be beneficial, so get your cholesterol checked and start managing it today.