Cholesterol is used by the body to make enzymes, vitamin D and hormones. This waxy substance is found in all the cells within your body. Although your body can produce all of the cholesterol it needs to maintain health, it is also found in animal foods like meat, dairy products and eggs. If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can form plaque and stick to your artery walls, which can cause your arteries to narrow or become blocked.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that the leading causes of high cholesterol are due to unhealthy lifestyle. Eating a diet filled with processed foods, fried foods, fatty proteins and dairy products can raise your cholesterol levels. Cigarette smoking causes a number of health problems including high cholesterol levels. A sedentary lifestyle can lower good cholesterol. In addition to these lifestyle issues, your age, being obese and your weight can contribute to higher cholesterol levels.
Health conditions caused by high cholesterol
When you suffer from high cholesterol, it can cause plaque to build up in your arteries. If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form and prevent blood from flowing in a coronary artery. When this occurs, the amount of oxygenated blood to the heart can be reduced or blocked, resulting in angina or a heart attack. Plaque can also form in other arteries in the body and lead to peripheral arterial disease, carotid artery disease and stroke. In order to lower your cholesterol , you must eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and lose excess weight.
Dietary changes to reduce cholesterol levels
Years of unhealthy eating can cause increased cholesterol levels. Luckily a few dietary changes can lower your cholesterol levels and improve your cardiovascular health. Let's take a look at how you can easily incorporate these changes into your diet.
Fat – Saturated fat is found in dairy products and red meat. This type of fat can increase total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. Another type of dangerous fat is trans fat. This fat increases LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats are found in commercially prepared snacks and fried foods.
Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega 3 fatty acids are healthy fats that increase HDL cholesterol levels while lowering triglycerides. Salmon, herring and mackerel contain abundant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to these fatty fish, you can get omega-3 fatty acids in almonds, flaxseeds and walnuts.
Fiber – Fiber offers numerous heart benefits. There are two different types of fibers- soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol and helps remove excess cholesterol from the body. One of the most popular forms of soluble fiber is oatmeal. WebMD reports that consuming this type of fiber can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat, brown rice and the seeds and peels of fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber helps to flush toxins from the digestive system and improve digestion.
Exercise helps to increase HDL cholesterol levels. Experts recommend that everyone who is able should get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. For best results, incorporate both aerobic activity and strength training exercises into your daily activities. If it seems impossible to carve out 30 minutes in your day for exercise, break your physical activity into two 15 minute or three 10 minute sessions.
When you stop smoking, your HDL cholesterol levels will improve. Additionally, within 20 minutes of stopping smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure begin to decrease. After one year of being smoke-free, your risk of developing heart disease is cut in half.
Losing as little as ten percent of your body weight can decrease your cholesterol levels. If you are overweight, evaluate your diet and physical activity levels and begin making changes. Eating whole foods and opting for a healthy snack can help lower your cholesterol levels. Additionally, increasing your activity levels can help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol levels.
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol levels. It is important to note that the benefits of alcohol consumption are not strong enough to recommend those who do not drink to begin drinking. When it comes to alcohol consumption, women should not drink more than one alcoholic beverage and men should not drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day.
High cholesterol levels are dangerous and can lead to a number of cardiovascular problems, including heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Knowing how to mange your cholesterol levels through healthy lifestyle changes can lower your risk of developing these health issues. Get active, get in shape and eat a healthy diet to lower your cholesterol levels.