Fighting Cholesterol with Diet and Exercise

There is no shortage of health advice that include the words “diet and exercise.” To effectively prevent cholesterol-related disease and illness, it’s no cliché – diet and exercise really are the two best prescriptions that you are 100% in control of how much and how often.

However, you don’t live in a vacuum. As much as diet and exercise are 100% in your control, there are work schedules, family responsibilities and other commitments which make it difficult to eat the way you really want and also to be active regularly.

Fighting cholesterol with a healthy lifestyle is not impossible. In this article we’ll discuss some of the options busy people just like you have in regards to eating healthier foods. We’ll also serve up some tips to help you begin an exercise routine that will help you fight cholesterol so you can be your best self – for a long time!

Eat Less Trans Fat and More Saturated Fat to Help Lower Your Cholesterol

The first step in any diet is eliminating foods that are not good for you. The same is true when trying to lower your cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, you want to avoid trans fats such as fried foods and processed products, like cookies, crackers and snack cakes (not much fun to hear, but it’s the truth). Trans fats increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or ‘bad’ cholesterol and decrease high-density lipoprotein HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol. Not quite the combination you want when attempting to regulate your cholesterol.

What you can do is choose healthier saturated fats, such as leaner cuts of meat, low-fat dairy and monounsaturated fats, found in olive and canola oils in your diet. Saturated fats are found primarily in red meat and dairy products, and raise your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Your saturated fat intake should be less than seven percent of your total daily calories.

Include High Fiber Foods in Your Diet

Next, you want to increase the soluble fiber in your diet. This can be found in oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils and vegetables. Simply eating 5 to 10 grams or more of high fiber foods a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. In addition, soluble fiber has heart-health benefits.

Here are a few specific foods that are high in soluble fiber:

  • Avocados
  • Asian pears
  • Raspberries and blackberries
  • Artichokes
  • Peas
  • Black beans
  • Almonds and walnuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Quinoa

Breakfast is one of the more difficult meals to plan for with a high-fiber awareness… we recommend cooked oatmeal with fruit; your heart will love you for it and your morning will be off to a great start.

Eat More Fish for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

If you enjoy fish, then incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet may not be so difficult. Fish, specifically fatty fish, have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week. Fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Mackerel
  • Lake trout
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Albacore tuna
  • Salmon
  • Halibut

As you plan your meals, make sure you bake or grill your fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats. For those who don’t like fish, other options for adding small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseed. Keep in mind that nuts are high in calories so you don’t want to eat too many. A handful each day will do.

Other Foods That Can Help You Get Cholesterol Under Control

Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers both LDL and total cholesterol. The easiest way to include whey protein is with whey protein powders found in health food stores and some grocery stores.

Avocados are a potent source of nutrients as well as monounsaturated fatty acids. According to a recent study, adding an avocado a day to a heart-healthy diet can help improve LDL levels in people who are overweight or obese.

Just like nuts, avocados are also high in calories, so don’t eat more than the recommended amount.

Exercise Regularly and Increase Your Physical Activity

A healthy diet puts you in a strong position to make significant progress in lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol.

Moving more throughout your day and including exercise as part of your daily routine allows you to experience the optimum results of your diet changes. With moderate physical activity you can raise your HDL cholesterol; start with 10-minute intervals several times a day.

Here are a few suggestions to get you going:

  • During your lunch hour, take a brisk walk
  • Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs
  • When you park at work, pick a spot farther away
  • If the distance is not too far, ride your bike to work
  • In the evening, head to the pool and swim a few laps
  • During the weekend, head to the park and play some sports

Any physical activity you do will help lower your cholesterol levels. Of course, make sure you speak to your doctor about how much exercise you should begin with.

The additional benefit is that you will most likely lose some weight. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your weight can improve your cholesterol levels.

A Healthy Lifestyle Starts with Making the Right Choices

In order to live a healthy life when you have high cholesterol, you have to make some changes. Eating healthier foods and exercising regularly will help you take a step closer to managing your cholesterol levels. It may be difficult at first, but will become easier over time.

With what we have outlined in this article, along with speaking with your primary care doctor, your cholesterol can be kept under control. It all starts with you.

If you are in the Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix or Gilbert area of Arizona, we encourage you to schedule a visit with one of our providers. You can call 480.831.8457 to speak with our scheduling department.

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