Finding out that you have high LDL cholesterol means that you have to get serious about your health. When your LDL levels are elevated to more than 130, cholesterol accumulates in your arteries. This leads to potentially life-threatening conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Chest pain
Luckily, in most cases, you can lower your cholesterol by making a few changes to your lifestyle. Henock Saint-Jacques, MD, FACC and the team at Harlem Cardiology on Madison Avenue in Manhattan offer the following eight tips to keep your LDL levels healthy.
1. Eat more
Before you get too excited, “eat more” doesn’t refer to eating more processed foods, sugar, or junk food. It means you should cut out those kinds of un-nutritious, pro-inflammatory foods altogether and replace them with healthy, nourishing foods that help your body function, such as:
Leafy greens (spinach, collards)
Other whole grains
Particularly, soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and removes it from the body before it can get into your blood vessels. Also, eating nuts not only lowers your cholesterol, but it improves the health of your heart overall.
2. Kick up a storm
Remember when you were a kid, and you loved running around outside with your friends so much that you’d do anything you could to avoid coming back into the house? Find activities that give you that kind of thrill again, so that your body gets all of the movement it needs. Teaming up with a workout buddy can make exercise fun again, especially if you choose from activities such as:
- Tai chi
Vary your routine between aerobic exercises, strengthening with weights, and stretching to keep your body limber and fit. Exercise is also a great way to let go of stress and elevate your mood.
3. Chill out
Stress raises the levels of adrenaline and a hormone called cortisol, also known as the “stress” hormone. These fight-or-flight hormones cause your body to release fatty acids and triglycerides that increase your LDL levels. If you feel stressed out, try:
- Deep breathing
- Talking to a friend
- Talk therapy
Be sure to give yourself a little “me” time every day to minimize the effects of stress.
4. Cut down on alcohol
While moderate drinking may have some heart-healthy benefits, you shouldn’t try to use red wine or any other alcohol to lower your cholesterol. Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol raises your risk for cancer and other diseases. Limit yourself to a maximum of one drink per day if you’re a woman or a man over the age of 65, and two if you’re a man under 65.
5. Ditch the cigarettes
Quitting smoking raises your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol. The HDL helps move LDL out of your bloodstream, keeping your blood vessels and heart healthier. Within a year of quitting smoking, your risk of developing heart disease is cut by half.
6. Be stingy with salt
Salt (or sal) was once so valuable that the Romans used it to pay their soldiers, which is where we get the word “salary.” Now you can buy salt cheaply, but using too much of it isn’t good for your health. Cutting out junk food and processed foods can help you keep your salt intake at a healthy level.
7. Mind the fat
While your cells need good-quality fats to function optimally, eating too much fat — or the wrong kinds of fat — is bad for your cholesterol levels. Trans fats, for instance, raise your LDL. They’re found in almost all junk and processed foods, often in the form of “hydrogenated oil.”
Instead, focus on “good” fats, such as olive oil or sunflower oil. Other sources of good fat include nuts and fatty fish.
8. Slim down
If you’re overweight, dropping just 10 pounds can lower your cholesterol by 8%. Losing weight also eases the stress on your heart.
If you follow all of the other tips above — cutting out trans fats and other bad fats, exercising more, and eating more fruits and vegetables — you’ll probably find that you lose weight naturally. If you have trouble budging the needle on your scale, though, Dr. Saint-Jacques can custom-design a weight loss program for you.
If your cholesterol levels are too high, Dr. Saint-Jacques may also recommend medication to lower your LDL. To find out more about how to lower your cholesterol, call us today or request an appointment online.