You have probably heard that high cholesterol levels are harmful to your health, but this is only partly true. Your body requires cholesterol to produce hormones, produce bile in the liver, and protect your cells.
There are two basic types of cholesterol: LDL (the bad stuff) and HDL (the good stuff). Both satisfy the tasks discussed above, but LDL cholesterol may be dangerous because the unused portion accumulates in your arteries and can cause blockages, leading to heart attacks and strokes.
You can make simple lifestyle changes to increase levels of HDL and banish excess HDL.
1. Eat up, but choose wisely
When choosing your meals, choose foods with healthier fats. Avoid trans fat and saturated fat, which are sources of LDL cholesterol. Instead, opt for foods with unsaturated fat, which will boost your HDL levels. Try to include fish, nuts, seeds, beans and avocados in your diet. Fried and processed foods tend to have a lot of unhealthy fat, so enjoy those in moderation. Whole grains, such as oats and barley, and other sources of soluble fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, help prevent cholesterol from entering your bloodstream.
2. Get the heart pumping
Any kind of exercise where the blood flows through the veins is great to get rid of some stored LDL, and regular activity can even increase HDL levels! Try dancing, jogging, or cycling to improve your cardiovascular health.
3. Stay (or get) smoke-free
Smoking is harmful to your health. It increases your risk of cancer, damages your lungs, and makes it significantly harder for HDL cholesterol to carry stored LDL cholesterol to the liver for removal. If you're not a smoker, maintain this healthy habit. If you're a smoker, consider quitting. Quitting smoking is in your best interest, and if you need help doing so, here are three helpful tips.
4. Stress less
Higher stress levels correlate with higher cholesterol levels. This correlation could be indirect, due to the use of unhealthy coping mechanisms with stress, or direct, due to the long-term effects that stress hormones have on our bodies. Learn more about healthy ways to deal with stress to prevent an increase in cholesterol and blood pressure.
With these simple lifestyle changes, you can raise your HDL levels and reduce the amount of LDL stored in your arteries.
If you're concerned about your cholesterol levels and their effect on your health, your Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care physician can check your cholesterol levels and help you to develop a healthy diet and fitness plan to get you on the right track. If you have high cholesterol levels (above 200 mg / dL), make an appointment with a cardiologist at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group to discuss additional ways you can lower your cholesterol and move toward better health.
Healthline | 10 Natural Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Levels
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Harvard Health Publishing | 11 Foods That Lower Cholesterol
Healthline | The Effects of High Cholesterol on the Body
Medical News Today | Foods with high cholesterol to avoid and include
Harvard Health Publishing | Elevating Your HDL Game
NCBI | Acute cholesterol responses to mental stress and change in posture.
Healthline | Does Stress Affect Your Cholesterol?
MedlinePlus | LDL: The "Bad" Cholesterol
American Heart Association | HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Healthline | Why Is Cholesterol Needed by the Body?
LiveStrong | What Is the Function of Cholesterol in the Body?