3 effective ways to manage high cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood that helps the body function. But excess, usually over 240 mg/dl, is harmful. High cholesterol affects nearly 40 percent of our country’s adult population. The leading causes include a meal plan high in saturated fat, a sedentary lifestyle, and stress. The ailment has no symptoms, making it hard to detect without a blood test. Here are the treatments, meal plans, and lifestyle tips for managing cholesterol levels:
There are two types of cholesterol: good cholesterol (also known as high-density lipoprotein or HDL) and bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL). High levels of bad cholesterol are more harmful, and most treatments aim to reduce its amount in the blood. Two popular treatment options are:
LIVALO® is an FDA-approved option for adults. It helps lower bad cholesterol by limiting the liver’s ability to produce it. The treatment works best with a healthy nutrition plan and exercise. The recommended dose for LIVALO® is 2 mg daily, but it can go up to a maximum of 4 mg. Patients should consult a doctor to determine the correct dosage. It can have side effects like back pain and constipation.
Repatha® helps lower bad cholesterol by limiting the ability of a particular protein responsible for regulating the amount of cholesterol. It is administered into the blood and is available in multiple dosing options. One must consult a doctor to understand if Repatha® is suitable for them.
Foods to eat and avoid
High cholesterol affects the heart, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. So it is vital to include heart-healthy foods in the daily meals. These are mainly those high in fiber and dense in nutrients. Here are a few suitable options to consider:
- Whole grains
Whole grains like oats and barley have soluble fiber that helps reduce the absorption of bad cholesterol in the blood. Unlike refined grains, they are storehouses of vital nutrients, including B vitamins and minerals. These are important in maintaining good health and preventing lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Veggies are storehouses of fiber, essential nutrients, and antioxidants, so including a large variety of seasonal vegetables in the meal plan can manage the condition. Some types, such as okra, carrots, potatoes, and eggplants, are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps lower bad cholesterol.
Various legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, and black beans, help lower bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. They are good sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Including one serving of these in the daily meal plan would mean less intake of foods high in saturated fat, such as animal fats, butter, and cheese, which are bad for the condition.
Rich in fiber and monosaturated fats, avocados not only lower LDL or bad cholesterol but also increase HDL or good cholesterol in the body. They contain multiple vitamins, including vitamins K, E, and A, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.
- Vegetable oils
Healthy fats are necessary as they help transport vitamins A, D, and E in the body, promote cell growth, and control blood pressure and cholesterol. Vegetable oils like olive, canola, sesame, and avocado oils are a good source of monounsaturated fats that lower bad cholesterol. Sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and flaxseed oils contain polyunsaturated fat that helps lower blood pressure and LDL and reduces triglycerides.
Foods with unhealthy saturated and trans fats can increase LDL levels in the blood. Below are the foods that have plenty of such unhealthy fats and should be avoided:
- Deep-fried foods
French fries, onion rings, and other fried foods contain trans fats and are high in calories and salt with little nutrition. These increase LDL levels and the risk of heart disease, inflammation, and other health conditions.
- Processed meats
Bacon, sausages, and deli meat can elevate bad cholesterol in the blood. These are high in sodium content and low in nutrition value. One must avoid them as much as possible or opt for meat that is around 98 percent fat-free.
Cookies, cakes, and ice creams produced commercially are high in added sugars, preservatives, refined flour, and unhealthy fats. These can lead to high cholesterol levels and increase the risk of complications associated with the disease.
In most cases, simple lifestyle changes are sufficient to manage borderline cholesterol. Here are a few options to consider:
Studies have shown that exercise can reduce bad cholesterol by 15 percent and increase good cholesterol by 20 percent. But intensity and duration of activity are essential. Around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is recommended per week. Higher intensity training increases good cholesterol, while a more extended exercise routine reduces bad cholesterol.
- Use healthier cooking methods
Cooking methods such as baking, steaming, stir-frying, or broiling reduce unhealthy fats in the meals, which, in turn, help lower bad cholesterol. Using vegetable oils instead of regular oil or butter is advisable when coating foods or pan-frying them.
Elevated levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream can clog arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack. Since a blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol, individuals must go for routine checkups.