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5 Tips for Keeping Your Cholesterol in Check

When your total cholesterol levels exceed 200 mg/dL, your risk of cardiovascular disease increases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 95 million Americans have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. 

At Heart & Vascular Institute, our experts work hard to prevent cardiovascular disease, so we’d like to offer you these five tips on keeping your cholesterol levels in check. 

1. Know your fats

When you’re working to control your cholesterol levels, there are three kinds of fats you need to understand: saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-3 fats, sometimes called omega-3 fatty acids. 

Saturated fats are those in red meat and full-fat dairy products. When you eat less of these foods, you lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is sometimes called “bad cholesterol.” 

Trans fats are in junk food — cookies, cakes, crackers, and other sweets and prepared foods. They’re sometimes listed as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on ingredients labels. 

Now that we’ve told you what to avoid, here’s what you should eat more of: omega-3 fats. Avocados, fish, and olive oil are good sources of omega-3 fats, which don’t increase LDL, and have heart health benefits. 

2. Exercise more

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week, or if you prefer more vigorous exercise, you may choose 20 minutes of aerobic activity three times per week. 

If you don’t like exercise, or it’s simply not a habit for you, build up to the recommended amounts. You might start with 10 minutes a day of brisk walking. 

One of the most important factors in sticking to an exercise habit is finding something you enjoy doing. If you dread it, you’re far more likely to give up on it. Whether you prefer a team sport, group fitness classes, or just walking, make sure it gets your blood pumping and you look forward to it. 

3. Eat more fiber

Most people don’t eat enough soluble fiber, and increasing the amount of fiber you eat can help lower your cholesterol. Foods like oatmeal, beans, prunes, and other fruits and vegetables can help you feel fuller, so you don’t crave snacks. 

Some studies have shown that increasing the amount of fiber you eat by 5-10 grams per day leads to a measurable drop in LDL. Raise the amount slowly, though, because you can experience cramps and bloating if you increase it suddenly. 

4. Lose excess weight

If you increase the amount of exercise you do, cut out saturated and trans fats, and eat more fiber, chances are good that you’ll begin to lose weight “without trying.” Extra weight can contribute to high cholesterol, so you may want to try a few other things that can help you shed pounds. 

If you drink soda, cut back or stop. Consider your snacks and opt for those that are low in calories, like chopped veggies or air-popped popcorn. 

Try tracking your calories for a few days so you know what you’re eating. Have a piece of fruit or low-calorie candy when you crave something sweet. 

Losing weight can be a struggle, but making small, incremental changes is one of the ways you can be successful. 

5. Quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption 

If you’re a smoker, you’re at a higher risk for numerous health conditions, including high cholesterol. If you’ve struggled and failed to quit, talk to your doctor. We may be able to help you find an approach that works. 

Moderation is a good idea in most areas of life, and alcohol consumption isn’t an exception. For women and men older than 65, “moderate” is considered no more than one drink per day; for men, no more than two. 

In some cases, even doing all of these things consistently isn’t enough to adequately control your cholesterol. We can help by prescribing effective medications. 

If you have questions about controlling your cholesterol or the risks of high cholesterol, schedule an appointment at Heart & Vascular Institute in Dearborn, Detroit, and Southfield, Michigan. You can easily book online, or you can call any of our three locations to schedule your appointment.

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