When it comes to trying to lower levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol, the advice remains consistent.
"Lifestyle changes are usually the first step for reducing blood cholesterol, and are continued if drug therapy is added," said Kathryn McMurry, Nutrition Coordinator at the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute. "Recommended lifestyle changes include increasing physical activity, losing weight if overweight, reducing dietary saturated and trans fats and increasing fiber-rich foods."
The goal of lowering LDL cholesterol is often to lower one's risk for heart disease and heart attacks. When cholesterol levels go up, so does the risk for heart disease. Check the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute's online 10-year calculator to assess your own risk score to determine your own heart attack risk at:
Based on that score, you will be in one of four categories which require different treatments and goals that will include dietary and lifestyle changes and possibly medications. Always check with your doctor for ongoing care as you address how to lower your cholesterol safely.
Experts believe regulating cholesterol levels is about balance. There are good (HDL) cholesterol levels and good and bad fats to consider. However, making lifestyle changes to achieve better cholesterol levels does not need to be overwhelming, especially for family caregivers with other concerns.
McMurry offers a few tips:
- Become more physically active. Adults should aim to build up to at least two hours and 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity that requires moderate effort each week. Walking is one simple way to add physical activity provided you do it for at least 10 minutes at a time.
- Eat smaller portions of foods and beverages high in fats and added sugars to reduce calories, especially if you are overweight.
- Eat more fish, choose lean cuts of meat, and eat chicken without the skin to reduce your intake of saturated fats.
- Eat more whole grains, vegetables and fruits rich in fiber.
- Check the Nutrition Facts labels and choose foods with lower amounts of saturated and trans fat and more dietary fiber.
- Experts say even people who did not previously have high cholesterol levels should get regular screenings. Levels of cholesterol increase with age, which means you should get a test at least once every five years.
If the results come with a higher cholesterol number, following McMurry’s tips can lead to fairly quick results depending on risk factors such as a family history of heart disease, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
To learn more, visit the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute’s website.