Hearing that you have high cholesterol is a scary thing, no matter what age you are. Bad cholesterol leads to a plethora of health problems, including weight gain that heightens your risk of heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can help get your cholesterol under control. And we aren’t just talking about taking medications — there are simple everyday habits you can adapt. You may be surprised at what habits can help lower your cholesterol.
First, give the restaurants a rest
A big part of lowering your cholesterol is adjusting how you eat. The biggest key is to eliminate trans fat, which is probably packed into many of your favorite foods. (Think appetizers at your favorite eatery and sweet cafe pastries.) One of the best ways to cut back on these cholesterol-raising foods is to limit how much you eat out. By preparing your own food, you can control what ingredients go into them. Plus, you don’t have to be a professional chef to eat better! Many cholesterol-fighting foods are easy to prepare.
Load up on nuts
Part of adjusting your habits to lower your cholesterol is getting rid of the polysaturated fats and replacing them with polyunsaturated fats. The best way to do this is to stop snacking on processed foods like cookies and crackers, and reach for a handful of nuts. Almonds, walnuts, and other legumes pack protein and healthy fats (more on those in just a bit) which help reduce your cholesterol levels.
Have a glass of wine
That’s right — adapting a Mediterranean diet can help lower your cholesterol. And that includes having a glass of red wine at the end of the day. As Mayo Clinic explains, red wine contains resveratrol, which is good for your heart’s health. Plus, red wine is packed with antioxidants, which help prevent build up of bad cholesterol in your body. Take a walk
Food isn’t the only thing that can help lower your cholesterol. Creating healthy habits like regular physical activity go a long way as well. It doesn’t take much to get your heart pumping and fighting off cholesterol. Just taking a brisk walk three or four times a week can go a long way to help ward off any cholesterol-related health issues.
It’s smart to incorporate lots of lean protein into your diet to get your cholesterol levels down. One very easy way to do that is to eat fish a couple times a week. Fish such as tuna and salmon are packed with omega-3 fatty acids — aka good fats — which lower triglycerides in the bloodstream and help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries.
Take a dip
Walking isn’t the only exercise that can help keep cholesterol at bay. Swimming and other water friendly activities are great for aiding in weight loss and keeping your heart healthy. The best part is that you don’t have to be an Olympic-style competitive swimmer to reap the benefits of water workouts. If your gym has a pool, you already have year-round access to getting good cholesterol-fighting exercise.
Cut down on couch potato time
If being active helps lower cholesterol, then you’ll want to get as much exercise as possible. Of course, there will still be days when you want to slouch on your couch and not do anything. But you have to fight that urge! Sitting for long periods of time results in higher cholesterol and high blood pressure, plus increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Count your calories
That’s right — you’re going to have to be one of those people that is extra aware of how many calories they are shoveling in their faces. While this habit may seem pesky, it will go a long way to helping get your cholesterol under control. “All fats, whether good or bad, have nine calories per gram—about 100 calories a tablespoon,” Harvard Health Publishing explains. “While you switch to a heart-healthy diet you may need to keep tabs on your calorie intake for a while.”
Part of adjusting your diet to lower your cholesterol is adding foods that will fill you up and keep you from craving all the bad stuff. This is where fiber comes in. Soluble fiber — found in foods like avocado and oatmeal — can help reduce the absorption of bad cholesterol in your bloodstream, in addition to leaving you feeling more full.
Nix the smoking
You probably know many of the health problems that stem from smoking. But did you know that it also affects your cholesterol? Smoking actually magnifies the effect that bad cholesterol has on your body, whether you’re trying to adjust your diet or not. Everyday Health tells us that kicking your smoking habit can increase your good cholesterol levels by 30% in less than a month!
It can be hard to incorporate new daily habits, even when you know it’s good for you. That’s why it helps to get people in your corner. Like with any kind of lifestyle change, having family, friends, and your significant other supporting you and helping you stay on track can speak volumes. Plus, support relieves stress, which is better for your heart!
Incorporate more omega-3s
We’ve already told you about eating fish a few times a week. But there are other foods rich on omega-3s that you can eat throughout the week to help lower your cholesterol. Olive oil, avocados, spinach, and eggs are just a select few foods that can help give you the good fats that you need.
Snack on fruits
If you’re cutting processed sweets out of your diet, you’re probably going to get cravings and end up relapsing. The solution? Start munching on fruit instead. Grapes, apples, citrus, and strawberries are all good choices because they are packed with pectin, which is a soluble fiber.
Whey protein isn’t just for muscular gym junkies to put in their post-workout shakes. In fact, whey has been proven to reduce inflammation, boost the effects of antioxidants, and — drum roll please — help lower bad cholesterol in your body.
Consult your doctor
Like with all lifestyle changes, it’s important to have an open dialogue with your doctor about what you can do. If the goal is to lower your cholesterol, it will behoove you to ask your physician what habits you should be incorporating and which you should avoid. The more help you get, the greater your chances are of lowering your cholesterol.