If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol or you’re just worried about staying heart-healthy, there are steps you can take to improve your cholesterol health. It’s important to know about changes you can make that reduce your bad cholesterol levels while boosting your good cholesterol.
At LibertyMed Health Group in Glendale, California, Dr. Ara Shafrazian and Dr. Arthur Babakhanians are dedicated to helping you take control of your health. We can check your cholesterol levels with a simple on-site blood test. If you have high cholesterol, here are five ways you can improve your cholesterol health.
What is cholesterol?
You’ve probably already heard that too much cholesterol can increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes. But you may not know that healthy amounts of cholesterol play an important role in your body’s normal functions.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance (lipid) that is produced by your body and found in every cell. Your liver produces cholesterol, and it’s carried throughout your bloodstream by a protein, creating a combination called a lipoprotein.
However, too much cholesterol in your blood can create deposits of fat in your arteries known as plaques, which can lead to restricted blood flow and even heart attacks and strokes. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to improve your overall cholesterol health. Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Quit smoking
Smoking affects your cholesterol levels in two ways. It can make your bad cholesterol — HDL, or high-density lipoprotein — more likely to stick to your arterial walls and cause plaques. It also reduces the good cholesterol — LDL, or low-density lipoprotein — available in your bloodstream.
Beyond increasing your cholesterol levels, smoking also raises your risk of cardiovascular problems by causing damage to arterial walls, which can lead to plaque formation. It also causes your heart rate to increase and your blood vessels to contract, forcing your heart to work harder.
If you’re struggling to quit smoking, LibertyMed Health Group’s addiction services can help you find the motivation and stay on track to quit.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight increases your odds of having high cholesterol, putting you at risk of cardiovascular problems. Studies have shown that increased belly weight is especially dangerous as it indicates the presence of visceral fat, or fat around your organs.
That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy weight by eating well and exercising. If you’ve been struggling to lose excess weight, we offer medical weight loss services to help you get to a healthy weight and reduce your risk of health complications.
3. Stay active
Even if you’re already at a healthy weight, staying active helps reduce your cholesterol levels and keeps your heart healthy overall. Moderate activity has been found to increase your good cholesterol, making it easier for your body to process and remove bad cholesterol from your bloodstream.
Aim for 30 minutes of light exercise five times a week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times a week.
4. Change your diet
You might have previously heard that it’s important to avoid dietary sources of cholesterol like egg yolks. While it’s good to avoid eating excess cholesterol, new research shows that saturated fats are more likely to increase your blood cholesterols than sources of dietary cholesterol.
By limiting your intake of saturated fats and increasing your intake of healthy unsaturated fats, you can often boost your amount of good cholesterol and decrease your bad cholesterol.
Start by making small dietary changes:
- Avoid foods with saturated fats, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products
- Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats whenever possible. For example, try using vegetable spread instead of butter or olive oil instead of coconut oil
- Snack on healthy and filling nuts instead of processed snacks
- Increase your intake of soluble fibers such as beans, legumes, and oats, which can reduce your bad cholesterol
Focus on eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins whenever possible.
5. Try medications if needed
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to reduce your cholesterol levels, we may recommend statins — cholesterol-reducing medicines that work by disrupting cholesterol production in your liver in order to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream.
We recommend getting a regular annual check-up to test your cholesterol levels and other health markers. If you’re overdue for a cholesterol check or you’ve already been diagnosed with high cholesterol, call LibertyMed Health Group at 818-241-4129 or book an appointment online today.