You don't have to rely on prescription drugs to beat your high cholesterol. Achievable lifestyle shifts, such as watching your alcohol intake and eating healthfully, can play a big role in beating cholesterol.
Read on to learn how four simple changes can go a long way toward lowering your total cholesterol.
Regular exercise can increase HDL ("good" cholesterol) and lower LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides.
And, if you need one more reason not to skip exercise, the American Heart Association has found that physical inactivity can actually increase the risk of coronary artery disease.
The AHA recommends moderate intensity activity at least 30 minutes a day five days a week. Moderate intensity activity includes:
-- Gardening and yardwork
Carrying extra pounds stresses your cardiovascular health. Lose weight with a combination of diet and exercise, and watch your energy increase while your cholesterol decreases.
-- Set a goal for a BMI less than 25.
-- Work toward a waist measurement less than 35 inches for women, 40 inches for men.
-- Cut 200 calories a day and you could be looking at a 20-pound weight loss in a year.
5 ways to shave calories:
1. Choose water instead of regular soda with your meal: cut 100 calories
2. Order a 12-ounce nonfat latte instead of a 16-ounce latte with reduced-fat milk: cut 90 calories
3. Splurge on two squares of dark chocolate instead of a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie: cut 166 calories
4. Eat four slices of turkey bacon instead of four slices of regular bacon: cut 220 calories
5. Top your baked potato with 2 tablespoons of salsa instead of 2 tablespoons of sour cream: cut 50 calories
Losing 5-10 percent of body weight can help decrease cholesterol.
What is 5-10 percent of your body weight? If you weigh:
175 pounds: 5 percent = 8.75 pounds; 10 percent = 17.5 pounds
200 pounds: 5 percent = 10 pounds; 10 percent = 20 pounds
220 pounds: 5 percent = 11 pounds; 10 percent = 22 pounds
250 pounds: 5 percent = 12.5 pounds; 10 percent = 25 pounds
If you have low HDL, high LDL, and normal triglycerides, then one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men may help improve those cholesterol numbers. But as Jerry Blaine, M.D., who specializes in lipid disorders at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, points out, the recommendation for alcohol is mild or moderate and doesn't apply to a person who drinks one glass a wine a day during the week and then has five drinks on a Saturday night. He adds that alcohol should not be used to treat high cholesterol.
If you have high triglycerides, the American Heart Association recommends reducing alcohol consumption considerably. Before continuing to drink, ask your doctor about testing your triglyceride levels after avoiding alcohol for several weeks to see if it's a contributing factor to high triglyceride levels. Alcohol even in small amounts can raise triglycerides.
If you take insulin or any blood-glucose-lowering diabetes medications or have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, discuss with your health-care provider how alcohol may affect your health.
Breaking the smoking habit can improve your overall total cholesterol, including boosting HDL 15-20 percent, according to the June 2008 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch. Quitting can be a challenge, but it's one worth taking.
If you need more of a reason to stop other than "it's bad for your health," understanding the cause and effect relationship between smoking and heart disease may help get you one step closer to quitting.