September is National Cholesterol Education Month! It’s the perfect time to learn what cholesterol is and to get tips to help lower your cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is needed in the body to make hormones, Vitamin D, and is found in every cell in the body. It maintains the integrity of your cell membranes and plays a role in the way your cells communicate with each other so your body can function properly. However, when there is too much in the bloodstream it can attach to artery walls and cause blockages, which can be dangerous.
There are two main types of cholesterol that you may have already heard of: HDL, which is considered the “good” cholesterol, and LDL, which is considered the “bad” cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol it’s usually associated with a high level of LDL and a low level of HDL, but that is not always the case. When you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, it increases your risk of coronary heart disease. High cholesterol is becoming more prevalent due to poor diet and lack of exercise. You could have high cholesterol and not even know it!
Here are 4 tips to help keep your cholesterol in check:
- Healthy Diet – Diet plays a huge role in cholesterol levels. You might avoid dietary cholesterol in fear of raising your blood level of cholesterol, but saturated fat and trans fat play a bigger role in raising your levels. These fats are found in fried foods, high fat meat and many processed foods and should be avoided. Diets that contain unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, walnuts, almonds, avocado and salmon, in place of saturated fats can actually help lower cholesterol. A high fiber diet can also help lower your cholesterol levels.
- Exercise Routine – A regular regiment of physical activity can help prevent and lower cholesterol. Start with an easy walk or workout and work your way up to a moderate-intensity level at least 5 days a week for a half hour.
- Healthy Weight – Being overweight is a risk factor for high cholesterol. However, with a healthy diet, exercise and positive habit changes you can lose your extra weight and lower your cholesterol!
- Active Lifestyle – A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of high cholesterol. If you have a job that keeps you confined to a desk 9-5, make it a point to go for a walk during your lunch hour or after dinner.
Other Important Factors to Know:
What you eat and how active you are have direct effects on your cholesterol levels, but sometimes other factors can work against you.
- Age – Cholesterol levels rise as we get older. Men are at the highest risk around age 50 and women are at the highest risk after menopause. At this point in your life, following a healthy, active lifestyle is very important to keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range.
- Family History – If there is a history of high cholesterol or heart disease in your family, your risk is significantly higher. This doesn’t mean that you’re definitely going to have high cholesterol. If you follow these tips and live a healthy lifestyle you can lower your risk.
- Gender – Unfortunately for women, LDL cholesterol levels rise more quickly than for men, but this changes after menopause. At any age, men tend to have lower HDL cholesterol levels than women.
Need help implementing the above tips? Reach out to me here.
Your turn to take action: What lifestyle changes will you make this month to help lower your cholesterol levels? Let me know in the comments below!