In my latest blog about cholesterol, I explained that your LDL cholesterol is the “loser” cholesterol, the bad guy, and it’s important to lower this number if it is high. And HDHL is the “hero,” the healthy cholesterol and you want to raise this number. Here are the most important steps to take to lower your LDL and increase your HDL.
- Reduce the saturated fat and eliminate the trans fat in your diet. This means, choosing low fat dairy, avoiding fried food, and reducing red meat consumption. When you do eat red meat, be sure you are choosing lean cuts of steak and 95 percent lean ground beef. Be weary of packaged foods that often have trans fat and remember that baked goods have saturated fat too (butter being a major culprit).
- Quit smoking! If you smoke, you need to quit! I know how hard this habit is to break, but smoking is so mean to your HDL, drastically lowering this healthy friend of your heart.
- Lose weight. If you are overweight, you need to lose some pounds. Being overweight tends to increase your LDL and lower your HDL. Losing weight will make a big difference, lowering your LDL and boosting your HDL.
- Increase exercise. Exercise increases your HDL cholesterol and lowers your LDL cholesterol. And it also lowers your blood pressure, making it a super support for a healthy heart. Make this a habit. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise (like brisk walking) a week—this is equivalent to half-hour workouts five times a week.
- Increase your fatty fish consumption. Fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel increase your HDL cholesterol as does any food high in omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends 2-3 servings a week.
- Love your fruit. Choose berries, apples, or grapes for a snack. Ass them to smoothies. Toss them in a salad. These fruits are high in fiber, which helps rid your body of LDL cholesterol. Grapes and berries also have compounds known to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol.
- Increase your whole grains. Swap white bread for whole-grain bread and white rice for wild or brown rice. Better yet, swap white rice for barley. All whole grains are high in fiber, which helps lower LDL cholesterol. Barley and oats (start having oatmeal for breakfast) have a bonus cholesterol-lowering compound called beta-glucans.
- If you are a dessert lover, choose dark chocolate. I know, I know, dark chocolate is more bitter than milk chocolate, but trust me, you can learn to love it. The awesome thing about dark chocolate is that it can lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol,
If you have high cholesterol, I urge you to apply these tips and stay on top of your annual checkups with your doctor. A healthy heart is one of the most important factors for a good quality of life.