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When your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels start to get high, or your HDL (good) levels are low, you’re going to have a chat with your doctor. And you can bet that it will include a lecture about changing your lifestyle. While you might be tempted to let these warnings go in one ear and out the other, the truth is that a failure to get your cholesterol in check can lead to a hardening of your arteries, plaque build-up, and eventually, a heart attack. In the meantime you’ll probably be feeling awful because your heart is laboring to pump blood through channels that are slowing closing up, leaving your body with less blood (and essential oxygen) in the meantime. So it’s in your best interest to pay attention and try to implement the changes your doctor outlines. Of course, eating right and exercising are rather vague directives. So here are just a few specifics that could help to improve your cholesterol.

5 Ways To Improve Your Cholesterol

  1. Cut back on Meat Consumption.
  2. You’ve probably heard that red meat is a major contributor to high cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut it out of your diet completely. In truth, it’s not nearly as bad as saturated fats. But you should probably try to cut back on high-cholesterol foods to some extent and replace them with heart-healthy options. Salmon is a good choice since it is high in essential omega-3 fatty acids that actually improve the health of your heart and help to reverse the damage that LDL cholesterol can cause. And when you do eat red meat, just make sure it is lean and that you opt for a suitable portions size (about 3-4 ounces is acceptable).

  3. Add Fruits and Veggies.
  4. If you don’t want to be hungry when you start cutting unhealthy items from your diet, then start adding fruits and vegetables to your plate as a replacement. These natural foods can not only provide you with the vitamins and nutrients that will help your body to function normally, but some, like citrus fruits and leafy greens, can also help to increase your heart health by lowering blood pressure and regulating cholesterol levels.

  5. Try Dark Chocolate.
  6. When you change your diet to combat cholesterol, you might find yourself craving the many items you’ve had to give up or cut back on. Luckily, chocolate doesn’t have to be one of them. You will have to steer clear of milk chocolate, which is high in fat and sugar. But you can eat a couple squares of dark chocolate each day without fear of raising your bad cholesterol. And in fact, it has actually been shown to boost HDL levels.

  7. Start a Cardio Routine.
  8. Once you’ve done the hard work of getting your diet under control, it’s time to think about losing some weight and improving your overall health as a way to compound the efforts you’re making on the food front. A basic cardio routine is easily scalable – start with walking and then move on to jogging, kickboxing, stair climbing, or other cardio activities. You’ll strengthen your heart and your whole body along the way, improving your cholesterol levels as you go.

  9. Work your Lower Half.
  10. You can do a lot with diet products and long walks, but studies have shown that working the biggest muscles in your body can significantly boost your results where cholesterol is concerned. In fact, adding an intensive leg routine to your workout (squats, presses, and so on) a couple of times a week could cause your HDL levels to shoot up. Why is this good? HDL (the good one) acts as a magnet for LDL (the bad one), snatching up particles in the blood stream to deliver to the liver for breakdown. So raising HDL can help to lower LDL. That’s good news that your doctor will be glad to deliver.