How can you lower your cholesterol?

If you are inactive and overweight, you tend to have an increase in LDL levels. Exercise can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) as well as weight loss and diet. People who are overweight have an increased chance of developing heart disease and a stroke and are at risk of sudden death.

Get moving
Doing moderate intensity aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day may improve cholesterol levels. This includes, walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, martial arts, cycling, anything that raises your heart rate and break a sweat.

Start making little changes like walking places instead of driving or taking public transport. Start swimming before or after work 3-5 days a week, go for long walks at the weekend, and take the stairs instead of the lift. Increase your activity as the weeks and months go on as it becomes easier for you. Practice makes habits, and you will feel better for it overall, it will help your cholesterol and improve your overall health.

Research indicates that cholesterol may be higher when you eat fewer meals. Aim to eat 5-6 small healthy meals a day every 2-3 hours. Split three healthy meals into around five smaller meals, snack on fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds (keep healthy snacks in your car, handbag, desk and within easy reach at all times). Snacking will keep your blood sugar steady, prevent hunger and prevent you from grabbing at unhealthy snacks.

Increase Fibre intake
Eat complex carbohydrates and whole grains like oats, barley, brown rice, bran, legumes, beans and unrefined products. Eat at least eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Eat apples, pears, berries, nectarines, dates, prunes, figs, cabbages, peas, courgettes and cruciferous vegetables, etc.

Nuts and seeds
38 grams of flax seeds per day reduced LDL cholesterol by 14% in people with high cholesterol. You can add flaxseeds to all sorts of recipes and add it to your morning cereal (just avoid cooking flaxseed). Several studies indicate that eating up to a cup of almonds can reduce cholesterol levels by up to 10%, which are great to snack on throughout the day. It’s not just almonds that are rich in polyunsaturated acids and keep your blood vessels healthy; most nuts do like walnuts, hazelnuts pecans, cashews and pistachio nuts. Make sure your nuts are not coated in sugar or salt. Remember that nuts are calorific so avoid eating too many, a handful is enough. Don’t forget to eat seeds too, like sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Eat fish
Oily fish contains high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It is recommended to eat at least 2 servings of fish a week. You can take omega supplements to help boost your intake, and you can get omega 3 fatty acids from ground or milled flaxseeds, also almond and walnuts.
Fish that contains high levels of omega 3 are: Salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna and trout.

Other tips

  • Add raw garlic and extra virgin olive oil to foods, as research says these foods may also help reduce LDL cholesterol.
  • Foods with added plant sterols or stanols, substances found in plants that block the absorption of cholesterol may help. Foods like orange juice, margarine’s and yoghurt drinks contain them.
  • Eat lean white meat like chicken turkey and fish. Drastically cut down on red meat or cut it out altogether until you have healthy cholesterol levels, but limit it. Only choose lean varieties and bake, boil or steam.
  • Cut back on saturated fats found in full-fat dairy products and red meat. Cut out trans fats, found in some margarine, shop bought cookies, cakes and crisp.
  • Read labels and avoid products with hydrogenated vegetable oils, these are trans fatty acids that promote clogged arteries.
  • Always make sure half your plate is full of vegetables, one-quarter starchy carbohydrate like beans, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato etc. The other quarter should be lean protein.
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