5 Things You Should Do About High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance naturally found in your blood. It’s an essential building block for healthy cells, but having too much cholesterol in your blood can lead to buildup in your arteries.

This buildup can narrow the arteries, making your heart work harder to pump blood throughout your body. High cholesterol is a top risk factor for heart disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States for both men and women. 

An estimated 102 million Americans have high cholesterol, but since this common condition doesn’t have obvious symptoms, that number is likely even higher. Having high cholesterol increases your risk of developing heart disease, but the good news is that lifestyle changes can make a big difference for your cholesterol levels and your overall well-being.

Kunal Patel, MD and our heart specialists at NJ Cardiovascular Institute help people manage their cholesterol levels. Today, we’re sharing some of our best tips for lowering cholesterol and boosting heart health.

1. Get moving

Incorporating physical activity into your routine is good for your cholesterol levels and your heart. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, which translates to about 30 minutes most days of the week.

Exercise improves cholesterol levels by boosting HDL, which is “good” cholesterol. Before you start a new exercise plan, talk with Dr. Patel to find activities that are safe for you. If you find working out for 30 minutes at a time too strenuous at first, you can still reap heart-health benefits from shorter sessions of 5-10 minutes at a time.

2. Eat heart-healthy foods

Some foods boast heart-healthy benefits because they lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fiber is an important substance found in whole grains and beans that may reduce the amount of cholesterol your blood absorbs. Foods with omega-3 fats (like fish) are also good for your health.

Foods high in trans fats elevate cholesterol levels, so reducing or eliminating these from your diet can help you manage high cholesterol. Store-bought baked goods and fast foods are often high in trans fats. Too much sugar can raise your blood triglyceride levels, which can also up your risk for heart disease.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

Carrying extra weight may elevate your total cholesterol levels. If you’re overweight or obese, losing just a few pounds can help lower your cholesterol. Dr. Patel and our team are here to help you find healthy ways to lose weight by making long-term lifestyle changes.

The best way to lose weight and keep it off is by integrating a balanced, nutritious diet and regular exercise into your daily life. Try eliminating foods with extra fat and sugar, and strive to find activities you enjoy (like taking your dog for a walk) to move your body more.

4. Quit smoking

Smoking cigarettes damages the walls of blood vessels. The damage increases your risk of developing arterial plaque, which makes your heart work harder. Quitting smoking prevents damage from continuing, and it also improves HDL cholesterol levels.

Research shows that in as little as 20 minutes after you smoke your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate drop to healthier levels. After three months, blood circulation improves, and after one year, your risk of heart disease can drop by 50%. 

5. Visit the doctor regularly

Make visiting the doctor part of your ongoing healthcare routine. Not only can our team diagnose high cholesterol, but we’re here to help you manage it and improve your heart health.

We can recommend diet tips and other lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol naturally, and if that’s not effective enough, we can prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication. Whether you’re taking medication or not, regular check-ups with Dr. Patel are important to help you stay in control of your health.

There are plenty of ways to achieve lower cholesterol, and you don’t have to do it alone. Get personalized support by booking a consultation online or calling the NJ Cardiovascular Institute office nearest you. We have offices in Secaucus and Newark, New Jersey.

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