5 Tips for Combating High Cholesterol

Cholesterol, in moderation, is a good thing. It’s made in your liver — although some comes from the foods you eat — and performs vital functions, such as creating certain hormones and keeping your cell walls healthy and flexible. In order to make the rounds throughout your bloodstream, cholesterol hitches a ride on molecules called lipoproteins. 

Lipoproteins vary in density: very-low density (VLDL), low density (LDL), and high density (HDL). The VLDLs and LDLs carry fat and cholesterol throughout your body, and the HDLs bring any extra cholesterol back to the liver so it doesn’t clog up your arteries. 

The balance between the types of lipoproteins is key, because if you have too much LDL and not enough HDL, you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes, hypertension, clogged arteries, and more. The only way to know what your cholesterol levels are is to have them checked at least once a year with a simple blood test.

Our team of medical experts at Family Health Center of Bastrop in Bastrop and Smithville, Texas, helps people understand and manage their cholesterol levels. Here are five ways you can fight high cholesterol and reclaim control.

1. Eat the right types of fats

All fats are not created equal. And when it comes to fighting cholesterol, some are better than others. You may instinctively think that reducing fat in your diet will reduce your cholesterol, but the goal is not an overall reduction. The goal is to lower LDLs and increase HDLs. That kind of specialization calls for increasing your consumption of certain types of fats and decreasing your consumption of others.

Increase your consumption of these fats

To eat more of the right kinds of fats, make sure to consume more monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. 

You should also eat more polyunsaturated fats, which can help prevent heart disease. This fat comes in two types. One of them is omega-6 fatty acids, which you can get from walnuts as well as sunflower, safflower, and corn oils. The other is omega-3 fatty acids, which you can get in salmon, flaxseed, mackerel, sardines, and canola oil.

Decrease your consumption of these fats

You should drastically reduce the amount of trans fats you take in. Trans fatty acids are found in animal products, such as meat and milk, and they’re also often used to make fast food, such as French fries.

2. Get more fiber

Fiber is a component of plant-based foods. It doesn’t dissolve in water, but it comes with some very important benefits for your gut. All of the good bacteria in your intestines — also known as probiotics —  thrive on this soluble fiber in order to lower your bad cholesterol.

Get more soluble fiber in your diet by stocking up on peas, apples, pears, oatmeal, and Brussels sprouts. 

3. Exercise more

One of the most natural things you can do to lower your cholesterol is get moving. If you’ve been sedentary for a long time, don’t be discouraged. Even the smallest amount of movement can positively affect your numbers. Start with low-impact exercises, such as walking, and gradually increase the intensity over time. 

Our team can help you develop a routine that’s safe for your current condition and help you reach the goal of raising your heart rate for 30 minutes three times a week to reduce your LDLs and decrease your risk of heart disease. 

4. Quit smoking — and toast yourself

You likely already know that smoking is bad for your heart and lungs, but you may not have known that there’s a direct link between smoking and cholesterol. Smoking, or more specifically the tobacco tar you get from smoking, changes the way your body processes cholesterol. Your immune cells become dysfunctional and can’t send the excess cholesterol back to your liver, so it hangs out in your arteries and leads to atherosclerosis. 

Smoking also changes the make-up of LDLs, and your immune system thinks they’re pathogens, so it releases white blood cells to protect you. This, of course, causes inflammation and more buildup in your arteries, increasing your risk for strokes and heart attacks.

Although quitting smoking can be challenging, you can reward yourself with a glass of wine to toast your efforts, because studies show that — in moderation — alcohol can increase your HDLs and may also aid in transporting cholesterol from your arteries back to your liver. 

5. Get medical support

High cholesterol is a potentially life-threatening condition, but the good news is that you don’t have to battle it alone. 

We’re here to help you navigate your numbers and find the right lifestyle and treatment that works for you. Whether you need nutritional counseling, advice about appropriate exercises, or extra support from cholesterol-lowering medications, we can walk with you every step of the way.

If you have high cholesterol and want to discuss it, or if you want to see where your cholesterol levels are, book an appointment online or over the phone with Family Health Center of Bastrop today.

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