5 Lifestyle Changes to Lower Cholesterol: Diet, Vegetarianism, Exercise, Quitting Smoking, and Adequate Sleep.

5 Lifestyle Changes to Lower Cholesterol

Cholesterol is essential for your body to function, but too much can lead to serious health problems. Healthy fats, omega-3 rich foods, soluble fiber and exercise can help lower cholesterol levels.

Avoid consuming foods with trans fats and limit saturated fats found in meat, butter and full-fat dairy products. Choose lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes and whole grains.

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

You can significantly reduce your cholesterol by eating a heart-healthy diet. This includes cutting saturated fats (found mainly in red meat, sausage, full-fat dairy and butter) and including more fiber, fruits, vegetables, low-fat protein, beans and unsalted nuts.

Include omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon and tuna (canned or fresh), which can raise good “HDL” cholesterol. Aim for two servings a week.

Also add foods containing plant sterols, which can lower your LDL cholesterol by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in your digestive tract. You can find these in many foods, such as avocado, olive oil, seeds and soy products.

2. Go Vegetarian

A heart-healthy diet that’s mostly plant-based can help lower cholesterol and improve your overall heart health. It can also help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and increase levels of good HDL cholesterol, which helps minimize your risk of stroke.

Studies have shown that vegetarian Adventists, in particular, have significantly lower cholesterol than non-Adventists, as well as lower rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. The key to a largely plant-based diet is to avoid saturated fats found in meat and full-fat dairy. Instead, choose foods that are rich in soluble fiber (found in beans, barley, oats and psyllium), as well as omega-3 fatty acids from fish and vegetable oils like olive and canola. Also avoid foods with added trans fats, which are often called hydrogenated oils and found in products such as refrigerated pizza dough, microwave popcorn and some brands of margarine.

3. Get Moving

Exercise helps reduce cholesterol levels, and is especially effective if you engage in cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening activities. Cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging or cycling, burns calories and improves “good” HDL cholesterol while lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Lifting weights (or resistance training) strengthens muscles and lowers total cholesterol.

Incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, and work up to more intense exercise, such as jogging or swimming laps. Choose a form of exercise you enjoy, and find a buddy to help motivate you. It’s also important to get enough sleep. This improves mood and enables the body to better use cholesterol-lowering medications, if you’re taking them.

4. Eliminate Smoking

Cholesterol is a waxy substance the body needs to build cell membranes, but too much can lead to fatty deposits in the arteries (also called plaque). While genetics and some medications play a role, dietary and exercise choices are key.

Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and raises levels of LDL cholesterol — the “bad” kind that clings to artery walls, leading to a build-up of plaque. It also lowers HDL cholesterol, which takes cholesterol from artery walls and helps prevent plaque from forming. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and eliminating smoking are the first steps to lowering your cholesterol. If those don’t help, speak to your health care provider about cholesterol-lowering medications. Taking these steps can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions.

5. Get Enough Sleep

While cholesterol supports many vital bodily functions, high levels are linked to heart disease. Medication is the most common treatment for high cholesterol, but simple lifestyle and dietary changes can also decrease the risk of heart disease.

For example, a diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low fat dairy, nuts, and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce LDL and increase HDL cholesterol levels. And replacing fatty red meat with fish like salmon or mackerel can lower triglyceride levels as well as cholesterol.

Getting enough sleep is also important. Studies have shown that people who get poor quality sleep (or even a good amount of sleep but not enough rest) are more likely to have high cholesterol levels and develop other health problems such as sleep apnea.

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The 80/20 Lifestyle: Balancing Healthy Choices with Indulgences

The 80/20 Lifestyle

Helen & I are big fans of the 80/20 lifestyle. It’s a great way to learn about healthy cooking methods & grocery shopping strategies.

It also teaches you to enjoy your favourite foods in moderation. However, this diet may not be suitable for everyone. So, before committing to this lifestyle, always consult with your doctor or dietitian.

80% Healthy

The 80% part of this lifestyle involves eating nutrient-rich whole foods, including healthy fats like nuts and seeds, fresh vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy. The 20% includes any foods you crave, which could include processed meats, sugary treats or alcohol.

The beauty of this approach is that you can tailor it to your own personal goals, explains Arsenault. It can mean four out of five meals are wholesome while the other one isn’t, or it may simply mean being a bit more mindful of the nutrient-packed foods during the week and being flexible on weekends.

Insider’s fitness and nutrition reporters Rachel Hosie and Gabby Landsverk have both used this eating style and find that it works for them. However, if you have health conditions or are trying to lose weight it’s important to talk to your doctor before making any changes. Some foods can be dangerous for certain conditions, such as salt, fat and sugar.

20% Indulgent

The 80/20 lifestyle is a flexible way to eat that allows for a bit of indulgences. This doesn’t mean consuming a pizza with extra cheese and pepperoni, but rather enjoying a slice of cake or nachos if you’ve been reasonable with your meals for a few days.

Fit Body’s in-house Registered Dietitian Kylie Morse notes that which foods are considered unhealthy or indulgent is open to interpretation and depends on personal beliefs. However, she does recommend that you place fresh foods like produce, lean proteins and healthy fats first in your shopping cart.

The 2020 method also promotes healthy habits by encouraging you to learn new cooking methods and grocery-shopping strategies. Additionally, it can accommodate any diet needs since no foods are required or banned completely. This is especially helpful for those with food allergies, gluten sensitivities, and diabetes. Custom stabilizer systems incorporating gums such as guar, locust bean and carrageenan with emulsifiers including mono-and diglycerides can help you create frozen products with better water control properties.

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