Before directly jumping into this blog, I would rather like to diver your attention to my previous blogs on “All about cholesterol” and “Effects of High cholesterol on human body”. If you have not gone through them then I would like you to spare few minutes reading them first to have a better understanding.
Cholesterol Lowering Diet and Lifestyle @healthmonastery
Definition Of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty, wax like substance present in human blood. It’s produced naturally in the liver. Every human being no matter of what age or gender, has cholesterol. Human body need it to stay healthy and it is vital for the formation and normal functioning of cell membrane of every cell in our body. Some of this cholesterol comes from the food we eat.
- LDL or The “Bad Cholesterol” : Read the previous article to know why it’s called ‘BAD’. Ideally your ldl cholesterol level should be below 100 mg/dL.
- HDL or The “Good Cholesterol” : Read the previous article to know why it’s called ‘GOOD’. Ideally your hdl cholesterol level should be 60 mg/dL or higher.
What Makes High Cholesterol Bad
When the level of LDL cholesterol goes beyond the ideal recommended range and the level of HDL fall, then the chances of developing plaques or atherosclerotic changes rise.
These plaques sometimes ruptures and creates a zone at the rupture site inside the blood vessels (mainly arteries) that is prone to blood clotting due to deposition of platelets. This leads to critical narrowing of the blood vessels thereby reducing the amount of blood flow through the affected arteries. Now this reduced flow can cause a Heart Attack due to supply demand mismatch of myocardium (muscle layer of heart) during exertion or sudden emotional stress.
Tiny showers from these blood clots can also travel all the way up to the tiny blood vessels of brain and can get stuck there causing ‘Stroke’.
How to Lower Cholesterol
Bringing your cholesterol levels back to normal range should be a focused and a Holistic approach. Following are the milestone for achieving the goal:
1. Exercise or Physical Activity
Exercise can help lower triglyceride levels and raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Combining exercise with weight loss and dietary changes decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
As I have described earlier that there are three main cholesterol : Triglycerides, HDL and LDL.
Proper exercise can have significant effect on triglycerides by lowering them, and on HDL, the good cholesterol, by increasing it.
However exercise does not have much impact on LDL cholesterol unless combined with dietary changes and weight loss regime.
NOTE: Do not engage in any activity if you already have symptoms like chest pain, excessive shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness. Stop immediately if you experience any of these symptoms while exercising.
How to Start On a Cholesterol Lowering Exercise Schedule? Most Common Query
The golden rule is to “Start Low and Go Slow”. AHA and American college of sports medicine recommends that people should exercise most days of the week or atleast 5 days a week. Recommendation is for aerobic exercises. Examples of aerobic exercises includes simple brisk morning walks ( a simple yet effective and no investment exercise option), dancing, cycling, swimming, treadmill etc.
- If you are new to an exercise program, start with a short amount of time, and slowly increase. You could start out with 15 to 20 minutes, or in some cases even less.
- Gradually increase over a period of time, so that exercise lasts over at-least 30 mins.
- The ultimate aim is to achieve a total of 200 minutes of exercise a week. In simple terms it should be 40 mins of moderate exercise for 5 days a week. Remember not to forget 5 minutes of warm-up and cool down, this should be in addition to 30 minutes of moderate exercise.
Now, I know you must be wandering what is moderate exercise or how you know you are exercising adequately or not. A moderately intense exercise should make you feel breathless but still you can have a conversation without being to breathless.
2. Make Healthy Dietary Changes
Let’s destroy the myth that healthy food is not yummy, red the follow blog post to find some yummy yet healthy munching options.
Following are the tips to make your diet healthier:
- Eliminate Trans fats: To name few here are the examples of the food stuff that are rich source of trans fats, margarine’s and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes.
- Reduced Saturated fats: The important source of saturated fats includes red meat and full fat dairy products. These food stuff primarily raises your blood LDL cholesterol levels.
- Increase intake of food rich in Fibers and Omega-3 fatty acids: This includes salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flax-seeds for omega-3 and oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears for soluble fiber supply.
3. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level. The benefits occur quickly:
- Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike
- Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve
- Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
4. Shed Some Extra Pounds
If you are determined and motivated this won’t be hard for you as you just need to follow the first two points with dedications. Results will be apparent within no time.
5. Specialist Help
Sometimes even after giving your 100% you won’t see the desired results, just don’t get disappointed or loose hope. Talk to your primary doctor and take his help. The common reason of not getting the desired results even after months of hard work is either very high cholesterol levels or resistant lipid profile which will require medicinal help along with lifestyle and dietary changes.
Examples of commonly used drugs are:
- Statins like atorvastatin (atorva), rosuvastatin (rosuvas) etc.
- Bile acid sequestrants
Take Home Message
“Where there’s a will there’s a way”