Good and Bad Cholesterol and Heart Health: Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to build cells. But too much cholesterol can cause problems for your heart health. Cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels and narrow them, making it harder for blood to flow. This can lead to heart attack or stroke.
There are two main types of cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque formation in your arteries. HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL from your bloodstream. Having a high level of LDL and a low level of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.
So how can you lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol? Here are some tips:
Eat a Healthy Diet:
Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, such as fatty meats, butter, cheese, pastries, and fried foods. These foods can raise your LDL levels. Instead, choose foods that are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These foods can lower your LDL levels and boost your HDL levels.
Be Physically Active:
Exercise can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and improve your blood circulation. It can also help you raise your HDL levels and lower your LDL levels. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. You can also do some strength training exercises twice a week to build muscle and burn fat.
Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Carrying even a few extra pounds can contribute to high cholesterol. Losing weight can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels and raise HDL cholesterol levels.
Smoking can damage your blood vessels and lower your HDL levels. It can also increase your blood pressure, heart rate, and risk of blood clots. Quitting smoking can improve your cholesterol levels and your overall health. If you need help to quit smoking, talk to your doctor or call a quitline.
Limit Alcohol Intake:
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your triglycerides, another type of fat in your blood that can increase your risk of heart disease. It can also add extra calories to your diet and lead to weight gain. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Take Medication if Needed:
Sometimes diet and lifestyle changes are not enough to lower your cholesterol levels to a healthy range. In that case, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you lower your LDL levels and/or raise your HDL levels. Different types of drugs work in different ways to lower cholesterol, such as statins, bile acid sequestrants, fibrates, niacin, and ezetimibe. Your doctor will recommend the best option for you based on your medical history, risk factors, and side effects.
By following these tips, you can lower your bad cholesterol raise your good cholesterol levels, and protect your heart health. Remember to check your cholesterol levels regularly with a blood test and talk to your doctor about your results and treatment plan.