Cholesterol is a kind of fat that is produced in your liver and carries out various functions in your body. It helps in producing hormones in the body and keeps the cell walls flexible and healthy. However, like anything in the body, a high level of cholesterol is not good for your health, especially your heart health. Most of us have heard about good cholesterol and bad cholesterol at some point in our lives.
Good cholesterol (HDL) keeps cholesterol away from the walls of the blood vessels and bad cholesterol (LDL) leads cholesterol to your blood vessel walls. This leads to the condition named atherosclerosis, which is a thickening of blood vessel walls and it further causes clogged arteries, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, heart attack, and stroke. The rise in cholesterol is due to a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, high levels of stress, and poor sleeping patterns. Although the good thing is that one can control it by following proper lifestyle changes.
Here are some lifestyle changes to reduce bad cholesterol:
1. Include soluble fiber in your diet
Include foods such as oats, apples, beans, broccoli, and citrus fruits in your diet as these are rich in soluble fibers. The soluble fiber present in these foods absorbs water and forms a gel-like consistency during digestion, which acts as a sponge for cholesterol and helps in removing it from the body. Also, fiber can make you full so you won’t be craving for snacking in between your meals.
2. Include a heart-friendly diet in your lifestyle
Your heart works for you all day and night; therefore it is your duty to give something back to your heart. You can do this by eating a heart-friendly diet like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole-food along with some nuts which account for healthy fats. Try to avoid oily foods and include fresh and whole foods to help lower cholesterol.
3. Avoid the use of Trans-fat
Trans-fat raises bad cholesterol levels in your body and increases the chances of heart disease in your body. These trans-fats are prepared by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils. Trans-fats are used in almost all processed food such as frozen pizza, cookies, etc. Also, some restaurants use this for deep frying so that they don’t have to replace their frying oil more often.
4. Lose weight
Gaining those extra kilos can raise your cholesterol levels and raise your chances of heart attacks and other lifestyle-related diseases. Even if you lose at least 10 percent of your weight, you will see remarkable progress in lowering bad cholesterol. Diet and exercise are the two main lifestyle changes to lose weight. When you lose weight this helps in reducing inflammation and reverses the insulin resistance in your body which helps in better regulation of hormones. Also, losing weight with the help of exercise is highly beneficial in lowering bad cholesterol levels.
5. Exercise more
When you live a sedentary lifestyle, it puts you at risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments. Exercise is your best bait to fight all these lifestyle diseases and a win-win for lowering bad cholesterol. It not only lowers bad cholesterol but also increases your good cholesterol. Apart from that, it improves your physical fitness level and fights obesity. Put exercise on your list of lifestyle changes for diabetes and overall health. You can start by brisk walking, then later move to high-intensity workouts and weight training. A combination of aerobic and weight training helps in reducing bad cholesterol levels for women (Study 1).
6. Avoid smoking
If you are a smoker then it is probably time to quit smoking. Smoking can put you at risk of heart disease as it is very hard on your arteries. It damages the lining of your blood vessels, which makes it very easier for plaque to settle. Hence it is best to quit smoking. According to a study people who have quit smoking show an incredible improvement in their healthy cholesterol levels (Study 2).
7. Limit your alcohol intake
You might have heard how great red wine is for your heart, however, it is not true. Drinking too much alcohol is bad for your heart health and can lead to high blood pressure and stroke. Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to obesity. Hence, it is better to stop drinking or you can just limit your alcohol intake to just one glass.
8. Take care of your gut health
We are only at the beginning of understanding how gut health is important for our overall well-being. Our digestive system is home to trillions of bacteria and other microbes which collectively form our gut microbiome. A weak digestive system or gut health is the root of many diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. It also influences our cholesterol levels. Try to take care of your gut health by cutting out sugar and junk food. Include whole and fresh food in your diet. Eat fermented food such as achar and also include probiotics in your diet.
9. Add a little spice to your food
Include spices like coriander, black pepper, ginger, and garlic in your food. These spices not only give a distinct flavor to your food but also help in maintaining the ideal cholesterol level. Including garlic in your diet can help in lowering your cholesterol levels. Also, the little spice curbs your appetite, so it also helps in reducing overeating.
10. Keep stress at bay
Stress is one of the foremost causes of increased heart disease. Today’s fast-paced lifestyle with an expectation of wanting more and more causes stress. When you are stressed out, it can spike your cholesterol levels. Try to let go of things that stress you so take a chill and read a book. You can also try to take deep breaths and practice meditation to keep a check on your stress. Also, try to laugh more often.
Keep a check on your cholesterol levels by following these lifestyle changes. However, sometimes only lifestyle changes are not enough to lower your cholesterol levels. Then it is best to consult a doctor for a prescription and take medication while continuing these lifestyle changes. These changes will help in keeping your dosage of medication low.