Maintaining good cardiovascular health is a lifelong journey, and one we must stay attentive to. One of the most important factors to take into consideration when it comes to heart health is our cholesterol levels. Sometimes, levels of cholesterol in our blood can become higher or lower than the heart needs to stay healthy. When cholesterol levels get too high, it can poorly impact your heart health.
If you’ve recently been told your cholesterol levels are too high, you might be worried about what this could mean for your overall health. But don’t fret: luckily, there are some helpful tips and tricks for managing your cholesterol levels, including making changes to your diet, as well as taking supplements to lower cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol?
When you’ve previously heard the word “cholesterol” you may have thought of it in a negative light. But actually, cholesterol isn’t inherently a bad thing. Cholesterol is a waxy, lipid (or fat) substance present in our bloodstream that helps our bodies develop cell membranes, make important hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and synthesize vitamin D. Cholesterol is produced by the liver; typically the liver makes all the cholesterol we need. However, we also get cholesterol from the foods we eat.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
- HDL – (high-density lipoprotein) HDL is known as “good” cholesterol. It helps to remove excess amounts of cholesterol from the arteries and moves it toward the liver, where it can be broken down and excreted from the body.
- LDL – (low-density lipoprotein) LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol. This is because it can cause fatty build-up in the arteries when there is too much present in the blood, which can lead to cardiac issues like strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks. Foods that contain high levels of saturated fats and trans fats are commonly known to raise levels of LDL cholesterol.
Optimal Cholesterol Levels
As a general rule of thumb, cholesterol levels under 200 mg/dl are considered healthy for adults. LDL levels should be 100 mg/dl or lower, while HDL levels should be around 50 mg/dl or higher. Cholesterol levels can be determined through a blood test at your doctor’s office.
How To Lower High Cholesterol Levels
Having too much LDL cholesterol puts you at greater risk for cardiovascular health problems. If you find you have high cholesterol, your doctor will likely advise you to take steps toward lowering it. Below are some of the best ways to lower your cholesterol and support your heart.
Take a Natural Cholesterol Supplement
Cholesterol supplements are composed of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are the good kind of fat: they’re unsaturated and help to support heart health. Omega-3s are naturally found in fish and algae oil, and typically come in softgel supplement form. Omega-3 supplements made of algae are a good alternative for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Cholesterol supplements also often contain Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids, which help to reduce LDL levels, and raise HDL levels in the bloodstream.
Make Dietary Changes
High cholesterol levels typically correlate with a dietary intake of too much saturated and trans fats. In order to reduce cholesterol levels, it can be helpful to cut back on foods high in “bad” fats. Many fatty cuts of meat and dairy products, like cheese, can be high in these types of fat. Instead, focus on eating a variety of fruit and veggie-rich meals, coupled with healthy fats like fish, avocado, and nuts. It can also be helpful to moderate alcohol consumption when attempting to lower your cholesterol, as it puts stress on the liver, where LDL cholesterol is broken down.
Enjoy Some Exercise
Getting moderate exercise can help to reduce cholesterol by boosting HDL levels in the body. Try incorporating exercises like brisk walking, hiking, swimming, or yoga into your routine 3-5 times a week. Exercise also helps to maintain your cardiovascular health overall, so it’s a win-win for your heart!
Say “So Long!” to Smoking
Smoking cigarettes can have a variety of adverse effects on the body and your overall health. In terms of cholesterol, the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause LDL levels to increase, while decreasing HDL levels. As such, it’s important to cut out smoking from your daily routine when attempting to lower your cholesterol.
Managing your cholesterol levels is essential to prolonged heart health. If you find yourself struggling with high cholesterol, luckily, there are a number of things you can do to lower your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and increase your levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. By taking supplements to lower cholesterol, focusing on eating healthy foods, getting appropriate exercise, and cutting out smoking, you can work to lower your cholesterol levels. Having your cholesterol in the right range is one of the most important things you can do to support your cardiovascular health, and ensure that your heart keeps beating right on time.