High cholesterol levels develop over a period of time due to several lifestyle-related factors, like unhealthy dietary habits, lack of physical activity, smoking and obesity. Since all these factors are dependent on the choices we make, high cholesterol levels can be controlled with the right choices. However, making unhealthy choices puts you at risk of rising cholesterol levels. Therefore, there is no complete cure for the condition; you can only implement changes in your lifestyle to control cholesterol levels.
According to Dr. Nitish Naik, Cardiologist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, a healthy diet, regular physical activity and an optimal weight remain the cornerstones for controlling cholesterol. “Medications also play an important role in many patients. However, it should not be misconstrued that once cholesterol levels have normalised with the help of medications that lifestyle no longer plays a role in managing the same. In fact, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce the risk of heart disease,” he says.
Incorporate these dietary changes:
1. Lowering the intake of fatty foods:
Foods that are processed or are rich in saturated fats and trans fats can increase the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol that accumulates on the walls of the arteries. This blocks blood flow, eventually raising the risk of heart diseases. So, by eliminating foods like pizzas, burgers, salty foods, sweets and red meat from your diet, you can keep a natural check on your cholesterol levels.
2. Increasing good cholesterol levels:
Foods that are rich in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are the ones that help get rid of bad cholesterol. So, make sure you include plenty of olives, peanuts and avocados to boost your good cholesterol.
3. Consume fibrous foods:
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits and legumes can provide your body with the essential vitamins and minerals that keep cholesterol levels in the normal range. Fruits are rich in antioxidants that boost the level of good cholesterol. Besides, fibrous foods also aid in weight loss and lower the absorption rate of LDL in the bloodstream, which indirectly keeps your heart healthy.
Take charge of your physical fitness
The first step towards taking charge of your physical fitness would be quitting all ill habits. So, quit smoking, if you are a smoker; limit alcohol consumption, if you drink; and get enough sleep. Focus on losing weight and start exercising. It will not only keep you fit but also help reduce your cholesterol levels. Several studies have shown that exercising helps improve heart health. Around 45-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise can increase the rate of LDL reduction when combined with correct dietary measures.
Reduce your stress levels
Prolonged stress increases the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been linked to increased cholesterol and risk of heart diseases. So, indulge in de-stressing activities occasionally and take a break when you feel it is needed the most. Yoga and meditation, and activities like dancing and swimming are not only relaxing but also a good form of exercise that you can include in your daily routine.
Medication does not cure high cholesterol, but it is effective in bringing your cholesterol levels back to the normal range. So, if you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor will first prescribe drugs like statins and fibrates. However, once you stop taking the medication, your levels might fluctuate again. Besides, medication can have some side-effects. The correct treatment plan for high cholesterol will, therefore, include medication for immediate control, as advised by a doctor, followed by a continued healthy diet plan and a suitable exercise regimen.
- By Editors of Rodale Health Books. Cholesterol Cures: Featuring the Breakthrough Menu Plan to Slash Cholesterol …