7 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol

Knowing your cholesterol numbers can save your life. Read on to learn how cholesterol affects your health, how to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and when to see a healthcare provider.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol gets a bad rap, but it’s actually an important part of your overall health. Your liver naturally produces the waxy substance, which your body uses to make cells, vitamins and hormones.

The problem is when you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream.

There are two types of cholesterol:

  • HDL or “good” cholesterol
  • LDL or “bad” cholesterol

When you have too much LDL and not enough HDL, you’ll have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

There are also triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the body. Having high triglycerides and high LDL cholesterol can increase your risk of serious health issues, like stroke and heart attack.

Where does cholesterol come from?

Cholesterol comes from your liver and certain foods, including:

  • Meat, such as beef, pork or lamb
  • Poultry, like turkey and chicken
  • Dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yogurt
  • Tropical oils, like coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil

These dietary sources of cholesterol can contain saturated and trans fats, which can trigger the liver to make more cholesterol than the body requires.

How does cholesterol affect your health?

Cholesterol circulates in your bloodstream. When there’s too much of it, the waxy substance can build up on the lining of your arteries. This buildup can lead to atherosclerosis, the narrowing and stiffening of the arteries.  

If you were to develop a blood clot and it couldn’t pass through the narrowed artery, you could have a stroke or heart attack.

What causes high cholesterol?

High cholesterol can be caused by:

  • Controllable risk factors, like your lifestyle.
  • Uncontrollable risk factors, like your genetics or family history.

How to lower your cholesterol

Here are some tips to lower your cholesterol or maintain healthy cholesterol levels:

  1. Don’t use tobacco products or vape.
  2. Limit or avoid alcohol. If you choose to drink, have no more than one drink per day if you’re a female and no more than two drinks per day if you’re a male.
  3. Maintain a healthy body weight—being overweight or obese can increase your risk of high cholesterol.
  4. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, keep these conditions under control.
  5. Get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity weekly, such as dancing, walking, jogging, cycling, aerobics, gardening or swimming.
  6. Eat plenty of heart-healthy foods, including vegetables, fish, seafood, poultry, fruit, nuts, seeds, healthy fats (like olive oil and avocados) and whole grains.
  7. Take your cholesterol medications as prescribed and always talk to your healthcare provider before discontinuing any medication.

When to seek medical care

 It’s essential to see your primary care provider for a physical each year. During your appointment, they can determine if you should have your cholesterol checked.

If your cholesterol is high, they can help you develop a plan to improve your numbers and heart health. Find a provider near you.

Holly Humphrey, MD, FACC

Invasive Cardiologist
Pardee Cardiology Associates

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