Finding out that you have dyslipidemia could catch you unaware. But, that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. Making simple changes to your lifestyle will go a long way in helping you manage your condition.
What is dyslipidemia?
Dyslipidemia is a condition wherein a person has abnormal levels of lipids in their blood.
There are three main types of lipids in your body: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), i.e., the two main kinds of cholesterol, and triglycerides, which are another type of fat present in the blood.
If you have dyslipidemia, it usually means that you have hyperlipidemia, or high levels of LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides, which is the most prevalent form. A less common form of dyslipidemia is having low levels of HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol).
The presence of high levels of LDL and triglycerides increases your risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.
Why are lifestyle changes important in treating dyslipidemia?
While dyslipidemia can be caused by genetic factors and can be inherited from one’s parents, the majority of cases are caused by harmful lifestyles or chronic medical conditions. This is why lifestyle management is important. While genetic factors cannot be controlled, you can actively make choices to improve your health.
If you have severe dyslipidemia, or you have it along with other medical conditions, you may need medication to manage your cholesterol levels. But, this does not mean you do not need to incorporate healthy habits. Lifestyle modifications are an integral part of dyslipidemia treatment.
Which aspects of your lifestyle should you target?
The American Heart Association recommends adopting a heart-healthy diet to lower your cholesterol levels . This means reducing your intake of cholesterol-rich foods that are high in saturated and trans fats like red meat and fried foods. Your diet should instead include more high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and foods that contain healthy, unsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, and olive oil.
Excess weight, especially around the waist and the hips, impacts your body’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol, thus raising its levels in your blood . So, losing weight is necessary and maintaining a healthy body weight will contribute towards reducing your cholesterol levels.
Lack of physical activity and leading a sedentary lifestyle are two major risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Exercise helps in weight loss, and maintaining a healthy weight strengthens the heart, improves blood circulation, and lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Even 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity every day, such as brisk walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming or aerobics, will drastically improve your overall health.
Given today’s intense lifestyles, most people don’t get enough sleep. According to the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a lack of sufficient and healthy sleep has a direct impact on your blood pressure, and it increases your risk of obesity, heart disease, and stroke. The NHLBI recommends getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night .
Smoking is probably the single most toxic lifestyle behavior that causes maximum harm to your body. With respect to its role in dyslipidemia, it raises your LDL cholesterol levels, enables atherosclerosis, and raises your blood pressure . Quitting smoking is the most important change you can make to improve your heart and overall health.
Altering long-term behavior and incorporating new habits requires commitment, dedication, and discipline. One of the best ways to ensure you stick to your goals is to track your lifestyle activities using an app.
Regularly logging information about your nutrition, physical activities, and other health factors on the app will make you more aware of your habits. It will allow you to see the correlation between your diet, exercise, and your health.
- American Heart Association. Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia). Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia [Accessed 9 April 2019].
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing High Cholesterol. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/prevention.htm [Accessed 9 April 2019].
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/your-guide-healthy-sleep [Accessed 9 April 2019].
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_CVD_508.pdf [Accessed 9 April 2019].