7 Tips for lower cholesterol: How to tweak nutrition and exercise for heart health
Cholesterol has been wrongly associated with all fat, which is wrong. You may wonder isn’t fat bad for you, but your body needs some fat from food. Fat is needed to build cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. You need to make wise choices of food and exercise. Listen to Cleveland Clinic Hospital (US) experts on how to choose well.
- Some foods deliver soluble fiber to our digestive tract and it binds cholesterol, and and drags them out of the body through the digestion process before they get into circulation.
- You need to know what foods are good for your cholesterol balance and control. This write-up also enlightens on what exercise is good for you.
Having high cholesterol can make your body feel like a ticking time bomb. While we cannot see that waxy substance getting glued on the inside lining of our blood vessels, cholesterol is silently continuing its march as a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke.
No one invites disease and ill-health knowingly. But as we go about the paces of life, sometimes regular check-ups are given the miss and that is when the silent killers creep in. High cholesterol, like elevated blood sugar, is a silent thief which siphons off health gains before you notice, thus causing lots of damage.
Not all cholesterol is bad. These fats (lipids) are needed in small quantities for several vital functions like:
- Building the structure of cell membranes.
- Making hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones,
- Helping our metabolism work efficiently,
- To help the body to produce vitamin D, etc.
The villain of the piece is low-density lipoprotein or LDL (bad) cholesterol which contributes to plaque buildup along with triglycerides, another kind of lipid. Plaque can threaten the blood supply to the heart, brain, legs or kidneys, leading to heart attack, stroke or even death. The other kind of cholesterol is the high-density lipoprotein, or HDL (good) cholesterol which works counter to the LDL and discourages plaque buildup. So, when you read your Lipid Profile report next time, do check if the HDL is on the higher side and the LDL within the healthy range. That would be a good balance.
To reduce your risk for heart-related emergencies, we bring you a report on what Cleveland Clinic (USA), one of the finest hospitals in the world, shares on its website. If you wish to learn about tips on lowering cholesterol through diet and making the most of exercise, here’s what Kate Patton (registered dietitian) and Michael Crawford (exercise physiologist) advise.
- Lower the use of animal fats: According to Heart.com, eating too much-saturated fat can raise the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood. A high level of LDL cholesterol in your blood increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. This type of fat is typically solid during winters. Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products and eggs and tropical oils like coconut, and palm. So go easy on the consumption of processed meats such as bologna, salami, pepperoni and hot dogs, as well as fatty red meats like ribs and prime cuts of beef, pork, veal or lamb. Chicken or turkey skin, full-fat dairy products such as whole milk, cheese, cream, sour cream, cream cheese and butter — all contain saturated fat as well as cholesterol, which are both associated with higher blood cholesterol and plaque buildup.
- Fibre is good for you: According to Mayo Clinic, soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Eating even a little fibrous food (like a serving of breakfast cereal with oats, oatmeal or oat bran) helps decrease your LDL cholesterol. In the gut, soluble fibre can bind to bile (which is made up of cholesterol) and remove it. Eat more ground flaxseed, psyllium, barley, dried beans and legumes, fruits, and whole-grain cereals.
- Nothing compares to a good vegetable meal: Give up meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese and say yes to plant-based protein such as beans, lentils, tofu or quinoa. According to a report in Harvard Health, a largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants.
- Go easy on carbohydrates: Research shows that following a low-carb eating plan can help you lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors. Choose high-fibre carbohydrates like oatmeal, whole-grain starches, beans, lentils and whole fruit, which will provide the energy you need but also keep you feeling full. Aim for a cup of starchy food at the max, or fruit, but fill up on vegetables that are low in calories and high in fibre. — at any given mealtime
- Shed excess weight, improve health: Provided you are overweight or obese, any weight loss helps lower LDL cholesterol. Even a small-to-moderate weight loss — just 10 to 20 pounds — can make an impact. Start by cutting out excess starch from meals and eat lean protein, instead. Start minding the plate size, the portion sizes, the number of servings, etc. Eat fruits instead of drinking juice. Eat only when hungry.
- Activity is key: Work up to 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day for optimum heart health and weight loss. Choose any sport you like and can do — walking, cycling, jogging, trekking, etc. Once you have safely mastered the moderate-intensity exercise, consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT) one to two times per week. Emerging research suggests this type of training can improve upon moderate-intensity exercise benefits, especially for raising HDL cholesterol. If you can sustain the consistency of exercises, you can see the triglyceride levels drop. Triglycerides are the only lipid in the cholesterol profile used for energy. They decrease an average of 24 per cent with regular cardiovascular exercise.
- Use apps, if you like: Many great technology tools can give you feedback by keeping track of your physical activity and what you’re eating, as well as various important health metrics. Smartphone apps often have exercise tracking, motivation techniques, calorie trackers and tips. But remember, no device or application can be a substitute for the good lifestyle choices of healthy eating and adequate exercise.
A note of caution: Always consult a doctor before you begin any exercise routine. Also, never overdo exercises. Listen to your body. If you experience chest pain, pressure, tightness, excessive shortness of breath, lightheadedness or palpitations, stop exercising and consult a doctor.
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