High cholesterol shows no symptoms, but can lead to more serious conditions like heart disease. While genes factor into an individual’s cholesterol levels, there are many diet and lifestyle changes within your power that you can use to control your cholesterol.
There are actually two main types of cholesterol: “low-density lipoprotein cholesterol,” or LDL, and “high density lipoprotein cholesterol,” or HDL. HDL is sometimes called “good cholesterol” because it helps remove cholesterol from your body by transporting it to the liver. LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, can cause a build-up of plaque in your arteries. Plaque can burst, causing a dangerous blood clot. The plaque that lines your arteries also restricts oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body, increasing your risk of fatal events like stroke or heart attack.
Your body produces cholesterol on its own, but cholesterol can also be found in foods you eat. Having “high cholesterol” is a bit of a misnomer because most doctors are less concerned with the total amount of cholesterol you have and more concerned with your balance of HDL and LDL cholesterol.
What to eat for better cholesterol?
Eat more: Fish
Eat less: Red meat
Fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids don’t lower your LDL levels of cholesterol, but will increase your HDL levels. Most experts recommend eating fish twice a week. Aim for fish rich in omega-3 such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Meanwhile, red meat is high in saturated fat, something that plays a significant part in raising your LDL cholesterol. Try replacing the red meat you eat with fish instead.
Eat more: “good” fat
Eat less: trans fats
Unsaturated fat, also known as “good” fat, is typically found in plant-based products, such as canola, olive, and safflower oils. Meanwhile, try to avoid trans fats completely. Trans fats are chemical reaction by-products found in foods like margarine, shortening, and chips. Saturated fat is the type of fat found in red meat. It’s also the thing in your diet most responsible for raising LDL levels.
Eat more: fruits and vegetables
Eat less: salt
Fruit and vegetables are good for you, but try not to go too crazy with the salt on that veggie stir-fry! Fruits and vegetables increase the level of compounds called plant stanols or sterols. These compounds act like soluble fiber and help lower your cholesterol. On the other hand, reducing salt intake will lower your blood pressure and, therefore, your risk for heart disease. Instead of using the salt shaker generously, try killing blandness with spices and herbs.
Eat more: flaxseed and soluble fiber
Eat (drink) less: alcohol
Soluble fiber is great because these foods help keep your digestive system for absorbing excess cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include whole grains, fruits, and legumes (beans, lentils, and peas). A type of soluble fiber that often gets associated with being good for cholesterol levels is flaxseed. Flaxseed can be mixed into cereal, sprinkled into drinks, or otherwise incorporated into other foods.
Meanwhile, limit your alcohol intake. This means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. While drinking in moderation can benefit your heart, too much can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Do more: exercise
Just don’t: smoke
Exercise is good for your health, period. While we all know that exercise can aid in weight loss, the real benefits of exercise go even further. Exercise enhances cardiovascular health, improves sleep, and even lifts mood.
On the other hand, quit smoking. Unlike alcohol, there’s no such thing as smoking in moderation. Smoking simultaneously lowers your HDL cholesterol while raising your LDL cholesterol.
If you’ve made lifestyle changes without favorable results, talk to your doctor. Your physician may prescribe you a medication that lowers cholesterol levels. Since many of these medications need to be taken regularly on a long-term basis, your medical bill may quickly add up. Americans can find affordable prescription drugs at international and Canadian pharmacies, such as through Rx Connected, a Canadian pharmacy referral system. Other healthcare systems may offer prescription drugs at significantly lower prices because their drug prices are more tightly regulated.
Check Cholesterol Regularly and Live Well
Since high cholesterol poses a serious risk but is virtually undetectable, it’s important to get yours checked when the time comes. How often you get a blood test and when to start will depend on a number of factors, including your sex, age, and family history. Talk to your doctor.
Meanwhile, keep living a healthy lifestyle. All the advice on this page leads to more than just healthy arteries, but good overall health as well. To read more about the information used in this article, visit the government MedlinePlus website.