By Vandana Juneja,
If you’re suffering from a heart condition or high blood pressure, the word cholesterol can set off many alarms. The first thought is to immediately curb cholesterol intake. But, did you know that this waxy substance found in the blood is crucial for building healthy cells, protecting the nerves, digesting food, and generating Vit. D and it also helps in producing certain hormones?
While high levels of cholesterol can impact your health in unfavourable ways, we need to understand what it is before we can keep it in check. There are two major types of cholesterol:
Low density lipoprotein (LDL) – Bad Cholesterol
LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.
High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – Good Cholesterol
The optimal reading for HDL levels is of 60 mg/dL or higher.
A high level of LDL is bad for the body, whereas a low level of HDL is also bad for the body. So, if you need to improve your cholesterol levels, you need to work towards lowering your LDL and increasing your HDL.
Here are a few simple habits that will help you keep a check on Cholesterol levels
1.Increase fibre intake in your diet: Fibre helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Consuming fiber-rich foods like whole grains, barley, bran and flaxseeds can help. You can also include nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios and seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and melon seeds to your diet. Also, soluble fibres such as green leafy vegetables, brussels sprouts, beans, lentils, oats, and fruits like apple and pears, etc. can go a long way in increasing your fiber intake.
2. Eliminate Trans fats: Trans fats raise your “bad” cholesterol and lower your “good” cholesterol. They are often found in fried food items and commercially packaged bakery items such as cookies, cakes and crackers. Always check the ingredients list on the packaged foods that you buy and make sure the percentage of trans fat is zero and it does not contain any hydrogenated oils.
3. Limit the intake of Saturated fats: Eating too much of saturated fats in your diet can raise LDL – the bad cholesterol, to build up in your arteries and cause a heart disease or stroke. So, try and limit the consumption to saturated fats to a minimum.
Saturated fats are found in cheese, fatty meats such as red meats, bacon, egg yolks, full cream milk and dairy based desserts. It is best to switch to lean, skinless meats and skim milk, and limit your dessert intake.
4.Replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats: Try and make healthy choices when you are buying oil for daily use. You don’t have to cut down on your fat intake entirely, but choose a healthy one. Use unsaturated fats that may lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol levels. Instead of butter, creams and mayonnaise, you can try Olive oil, peanut butter, avocado, canola oil and mustard oil.
5.Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise can help reduce LDL levels and can also raise HDL levels. 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week, is what is recommended. Any form of physical activity is beneficial, be it walking, running, stair climbing, sports, yoga, strength training, or swimming, etc.
6.Maintain Healthy Weight: If you are overweight, work on shedding the extra kilos. That extra weight can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Even a 5-10 percent reduction in your weight can help you reduce cholesterol levels. Work on burning more calories than you consume daily, to create a calorie deficit, as this is the basis of a weight loss plan.
7.Quit Smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for high cholesterol and heart disease. Regular smoking hardens the arteries and leads to atherosclerosis, which roughens the walls of the arteries and allows the cholesterol to stick more easily. This begins to form plaques, reducing the lumen of the arteries – increasing the blood pressure. So, it is advised to cut back on smoking or just quit entirely. You can try nicotine replacement chewing gum, lozenges, try drinking Ginseng tea, chew fennel seeds, licorice, cinnamon sticks, or cardamom.
8.Cut Down On Alcohol: Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. So, always consume alcohol in MODERATION.
Following the above healthy lifestyle habits will definitely help you keep cholesterol levels in check. If the levels are too high, your doctor will recommend medication to help lower it. Take these medications as prescribed while continuing your lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you keep your medication doses low and over a period of time, you may not require medication anymore!
(The author is Lifestyle Expert at GOQii. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)