Integrative Cardiologist with expertise in Integrative Cardiology, natural approaches to lipid management, and congestive heart failure, with a special interest in the prevention of primary and secondary coronary artery disease.
You have the power to improve your bad cholesterol numbers with these healthier habits.
Recently updated cholesterol guidelines by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) personalized treatment programs for each individual. However, using cholesterol-lowering statin drugs is not the only way to get to recommended cholesterol goals. You may be surprised to know that the very first recommendation in the ACC/AHA guidelines is to make favorable lifestyle changes to diet and exercise.
While statins are an option to achieve better cholesterol levels, many doctors believe healthy lifestyle changes to diet and exercise are perhaps more important. Some people can manage high cholesterol with lifestyle changes alone. Others may still need medication to get their numbers where they need to be. A benefit of adopting healthier habits may result in the need to lower the dosage of your prescribed medication.
You have the power to lower your bad cholesterols (LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol) and raise your good cholesterol (HDL) with a few lifestyle changes. Here are some suggestions:
Get moving. Buy a pedometer or treat yourself to a new Smart Watch and aim to walk at least 10,000 steps every day. You don’t have to do all your steps at one time. Extra steps during the day add up, so take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther from your destination or walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of sending an email. Choose a fun activity that motivates you and keeps your interest. Walk with a friend. With these tweaks, way you will look forward to the activity rather than see it as a chore.
Change what’s on your plate. Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes and lean sources of protein like fish. Reduce saturated fat and eliminate trans fats from your diet. Avoid fried and processed foods and limit full-fat dairy and fatty cuts of meat. Avoid sugary foods like fruit juices, ice cream, cookies and cake. Instead choose foods high in fiber and full of antioxidants like fruits and vegetables.
Lose weight. If you’re overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) numbers. Come up with a plan that allows you to not only drop a few pounds, but keep them off. Some simple suggestions include: eating your largest meal of the day at breakfast or lunch. Make your night time meal the smallest and lightest and don’t eat any food 3 hours prior to bed.
Stop smoking. Smoking can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol). Within a year of quitting, participants from one study saw HDL levels rise 5%. Contrary to popular belief, cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke) are more highly associated with smoking than lung cancer. So quitting smoking not only improves your cholesterol, it decreases your risk for heart disease.
Relax. Downshifting is crucial to good health and can keep cholesterol levels in check. Take some time each day to slow down, chill out and have some fun. Unplug from mobile devices. Laugh. Stress hormones can increase cholesterol and pave the way for heart disease. Lowering your stress level with meditation, yoga, exercise or a simple walk in nature has been shown to lower cortisol levels and improve cholesterol.
To develop powerful relaxation skills, you may want to consider our next Mindfulness for Well-Being in Body, Mind, and Spirit online class which will be held this fall. If you’d like to get on the waiting list, please don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure to put you at the top of the list for notification!
When making any lifestyle changes, start slow and adapt your habits over time. In order to positively affect your health, you have to in the end be happy and able to live with the changes you make for the long term. In short, slow down, smell the roses and try not to sweat the small stuff!
Please let others and even those of us here at the Pearl help you with stress management. Your long-term health and family happiness depend on it. Read about the cardiologists, internal medicine specialists, naturopathic doctors, and more Pacific Pearl La Jolla clinicians here.