Chances are if you’re concerned about your health, you’re familiar with the term ‘cholesterol.’ You know that having too much low-density lipoprotein cholesterol can cause serious heart-related health issues, like high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attacks, or strokes. It can also put you at risk for other dangerous illnesses, such as diabetes. However, just avoiding LDL cholesterol may not be enough to make the very most of your health. If you find yourself having trouble getting your cholesterol in order, or you just want to live a happier, healthier life, pay attention to these 11 cholesterol dos and don’t’s.
Don’t – Ignore Sugar and Alcohol Intake
When you are watching your health, determining which foods to avoid may seem pretty simple at first. Anything obviously fatty or salty should go. However, even if you cut out fat, sugary foods, and alcohol, may be flying under the radar. These unhealthy foods can also contribute to higher levels of LDL cholesterol. This is because any excess calories that your body acquires from sugars and alcohol is eventually turned into cholesterol and triglycerides. To cut down your cholesterol, limit your sugar(carbohydrates) intake by going light on pasta, sugary drinks, and alcohol, and swap your white bread for whole grain.
Do – Focus on the Entire Picture
It’s fairly common knowledge that cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, is bad for the body. However, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. While you do ideally want to keep your LDL below 100 mg/dL this is only part of a much larger picture. You should also be aware of your triglyceride levels because these will also play a role in your health. Also, you will want to pay attention to your High-density Lipoprotein levels. HDL is the ‘good’ kind of cholesterol, the kind you want to get more of. Balance total cholesterol by lowering your LDL and boosting your HDL.
Don’t – Miss Your Medication
This should be something of a no-brainer, but it does bear mentioning. If you’re taking statins, and other drugs for your high cholesterol, keep taking them. There are a lot of reasons people may fail to take medication. It could be a matter of forgetting to do so, in which case a schedule and reminders should be set in place. However, when it comes to cholesterol-lowering medications, typically the problem is side effects. Such side effects include muscle pain, and occasionally damage to the muscles and organs. These are understandable deterrents, but lowering your cholesterol is important as well.
Do – Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re reading the last point and being put off by statin side effects, you are not alone. The side effects, at a minimum, can be so uncomfortable that people stop their medication within the very first year. Instead of dropping your medication, talk to your doctor about switching to a different kind of medication. Studies show that problems of muscle pains can often be reduced or remedied by switching medications– and serious side effects beyond that are rare. They may be managed by other lifestyle changes. Be vigilant in healthy living, especially if you decide to forgo your medication.
Don’t – Skip All Dietary Fat
When people think cholesterol, of course, they think fat plus salt equals bad. It turns out that this is only partially true; trans fats (baked goods) and saturated fats are definitely to be avoided, however, there are plenty of healthy fats that you should still include in your diet. If you recall earlier, total cholesterol includes HDL cholesterol, which is good for the body. HDL cholesterol comes from different types of fat, namely monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in nuts, olives, and some fruit, like avocado. Fish also help, containing omega-3 fatty acids. Just keep track of calories!Related: 10 High-Fat Foods You Can Definitely Eat While Dieting
Do – Monitor Your Cholesterol
Knowing the ‘big picture’ of cholesterol doesn’t do much good if you don’t keep track of it. Unlike most serious illnesses, high cholesterol does not have any symptoms to indicate its presence. This means it’s possible to suffer from high cholesterol, and not even know it. Once a heart attack or stroke occurs, however, it could be too late. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol (aside from cardiac arrest) is to get tested by your doctor. In fact, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), after 20, you should have cholesterol checked every five years minimum.
Don’t – Get Careless with Dieting
Even assuming you are getting regular exercise and taking your medication as prescribed, it’s important to pay attention to what you eat. The medication is there to correct an imbalance of other factors; it does not mean that you can indulge in anything and everything you’d like to eat. Just because you have cholesterol-lowering medications does not mean you have more leeway to consume additional high cholesterol foods. If you can’t resist the call to binge, then binge carefully- eat more foods that lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, or at the very least, don’t affect it at all.
Do – Carefully Moderate What You Eat
Mindful eating means knowing what to cut out, what to cut down, and what to keep. As mentioned earlier, lots of trans and saturated fat can cause problems for you, as can certain sugary options. These are the foods to limit or remove from your diet altogether. However, there are other moderate cholesterol food items that are safe to eat, provided that you do so appropriately. Eggs, for example, are a great source of protein, but they can, in excess, contribute to cholesterol problems. Sub in low fat/salt/sugar options for your favorite foods, and don’t eat them all at once.Related: 8 Drug-Free Ways to Lower Cholesterol Levels
Don’t – Cycle Through Diets
So you’ve committed to healthier living to get cholesterol under control. That’s good. However, be sure that you’re picking a specific diet and sticking to it. Not all diets are created equal, and it can take some time to see results. In the case of cholesterol issues, this means getting tested, so patience is key. If you know a diet is not working out for you, by all means, change it up- but do so intelligently- talk to your doctor to figure out what is working and what isn’t and make intelligent decisions about which diet plan you should follow.
Do – Commit to Exercise
Just like with dieting, taking cholesterol-lowering medication does not exempt you from other lifestyle adjustments. One of the best natural ways to deal with cholesterol is regular exercise. Feeling unmotivated? It doesn’t take much exercise to make a big difference. In fact, only a half-hour of moderate exercise a day is enough to stay healthy. Even better, there are numerous other benefits associated with regular exercise, such as lower blood pressure, increased energy, and even improved cognitive function as well. As with dietary changes, regular exercise may take time to show results, so be patient and keep at it.
Don’t – Mix Statins and Grapefruit Juice
Bad news for grapefruit lovers. If you suffer from high cholesterol, statins, and other cholesterol-lowering medication may be adversely affected by consuming grapefruit. It is possible to enjoy the benefits of both grapefruit and statins, just try not to take them at the same time. In fact, it’s best to take Statins at night because of the way they operate; specifically, they interfere with the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol, most of which occurs in the evening. With that in mind, you should be okay to enjoy a grapefruit, or some grapefruit juice in moderation, just earlier in the day.
All in all, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to getting your cholesterol under control and keeping it that way. In the first place, you need to be aware of your cholesterol situation- LDL, HDL, triglycerides, etc. Aside from that, you’ll need to follow treatments and make positive lifestyle choices. This includes a proper diet low in trans and saturated fat, as well as sugars. If you stick to these lifestyle changes and keep in contact with your doctor to note any changes or complications, it is possible to make progress toward a healthier, happier life.Related: Lower Bad Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure with this Concoction