Higher cholesterol level increases your risk for heart problems, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. But most people don’t know what exactly cholesterol is, and why should they worry about higher cholesterol levels?
Break these five bad habits to manage & keep cholesterol levels within a healthy range – lower LDL (Bad) & increase HDL (Good) Cholesterol Levels
Why Is Cholesterol Important?
Cholesterol is a wax-like substance that is naturally produced by your liver. It is necessary for digestion and helps your body make vital hormones and vitamin D (from the sun).
Cholesterol is also contained in foods, including red meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy products. However, the experts say eating more dietary cholesterol, by and large, does not affect blood cholesterol.
Cholesterol tends to bind proteins called lipoproteins and travels through the bloodstream. But when the healthcare providers talk about cholesterol, they refer to the low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also called “bad” cholesterol, also and the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol.
It’s important for you to know, the more LDL (bad) cholesterol present, the more cholesterol tends to stick to the walls of your arteries, which gradually turns into plaque. Over time the plaque accumulates, and blood flow gets restricted, making your heart work harder. This buildup eventually leads to heart problems, like a heart attack or stroke.
I have some good news for you – HDL (good) cholesterol prevents bad cholesterol from accumulating by mopping it away from the blood vessels and sending it back to your liver, where it is broken down. So, to put in simple words, the more HDL (good) cholesterol is present, the lower your risk for heart problems, disease, and stroke.
5 Good Habits To improve Cholesterol Levels
Your risk for high cholesterol levels is linked to several factors, such as age and genetics. Also, your body weight, what you eat, and whether you exercise or smoke significantly impact your cholesterol levels.
Check with your doctor if you have high cholesterol levels. They may recommend medication if they’re too high. However, breaking some of the following habits can help improve your cholesterol levels and be healthier in natural ways.
5 Top Good Habits To Manage Your Cholesterol Levels:
Eating Too Much Added Sugar
Added sugars are forms of refined carbs added to beverages & foods in the meal preparation and during production. Unlike naturally occurring sugars, which are contained in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, eating added sugars could increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol. In other words, lowering your added sugar consumption can help improve your cholesterol levels. (Sources: 1, 2, 3)
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than six teaspoons a day for women and nine teaspoons a day for men, equivalent to about 100 calories and 150 calories, respectively. (Source: 4)
Some common examples of drinks and foods that contain added sugars are energy drinks, sodas, desserts, baked goods, breakfast cereals, cereal bars, and some yogurts.
Read the nutrition label for added sugars to reduce your added sugar consumption. Check the ingredient list because added sugars come in many names, such as brown sugar, honey, agave, molasses, fructose, and high-fructose corn syrup.
If you drink soda regularly, try to cut down the amount you drink. You can also decrease the serving size of foods that provide added sugars and consider making sweet treats & desserts without added sugar.
Eating Too Many/Much Refined Grains
Like added sugars, refined grains offer minimal nutritional value because the bran and germ, which contain vital nutrients such as dietary fiber, are stripped during the production process.
As a result, only the starchy part of the grain remains. When eaten, it gets absorbed into your blood quickly, leading to sudden spikes in the blood sugar level and activating the pancreas to create and release more insulin. Over time, this would lead to weight gain, increased triglyceride levels, insulin resistance, and a higher risk for coronary heart disease.
Some examples of refined grains are white flour, white pasta and noodles, cakes, pastries, cookies, and potato chips.
On the contrary, whole grains like whole barley, whole oats, millet, buckwheat, and spelt are good for your heart. That is because dietary fiber slows down the absorption of sugar. That helps stabilize your blood sugar and thus averts sudden spikes.
Whole grains may also help manage your cholesterol level. Including an extra serving or two in your diet may lower the LDL cholesterol level and cut down your risk of coronary heart disease by ten to 20 percent. (Source 5)
To develop the habit of eating whole grains, begin by swapping one meal for whole grains and gradually work towards incorporating whole grains as part of most meals and snacks.
Not Getting Enough Dietary Fiber
In addition to whole grains, other foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes also contain dietary fiber.
The soluble fiber in these foods works as a sponge that binds to dietary fat and cholesterol and gets rid of them through the stools.
For instance, beta-glucan, a form of soluble fiber present in bran and whole grains like oats and barley, may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Especially oats may possibly reduce total cholesterol by 5 % and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 7 %.
Men and women are recommended to intake 38 grams and 25 grams, respectively, of fiber in a day. Whereas there are no particular recommended amounts for soluble fiber, consider including at least ten grams of soluble fiber as part of your regular diet if you have high cholesterol.
When you increase your fiber consumption, begin slowly and ensure you are also increasing your water intake to minimize the likelihood of constipation.
Useful Tip: Especially increase your soluble fiber intake. Soluble fiber can decrease the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fiber is contained in foods such as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears.
Not Eating Enough Omega-3 Fats
Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, increase your risk for high cholesterol levels and heart problems. Decreasing your intake of saturated fats can lower your LDL cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol.
Trans fats increase overall cholesterol levels. They are often listed as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the labels of store-bought foods, like cakes, cookies, and crackers, etc.
In addition, the American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines at least twice a week. That is because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat. Though omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol – but they have other heart-healthy benefits, including increasing “good” HDL cholesterol & reducing blood pressure. Other foods rich in omega-3 are walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Besides the above, you will see a substantial improvement in your cholesterol levels when you also exercise in addition to eating well. Engaging in regular physical activity helps:
(i) Lose weight; and
(ii) Maintain healthier cholesterol levels by lowering LDL levels and increasing HDL levels.
You can do any physical activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, and yoga. Strength-building exercises, like weight lifting, may also be beneficial in lowering the LDL level.
Don’t worry if you have never done any exercise before. It’s never too late to start. Start gradually by exercising in increments of 10 minutes, and work towards exercising at least 30-40 minutes most of the days a week, with 150 to 300 minutes in total per week. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
The Take Away!
Read in this “Natural Cure Cholesterol Book” about the personal experience of a 69 years old man who has beaten heart disease, lives an active, independent life, and uses natural ways to keep his cholesterol under control.