High LDL cholesterol levels are the top contributor for heart disease. In fact, the higher your LDL cholesterol levels, the greater your chance of developing heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, more than a million Americans have heart disease such as heart attack and stroke, and about a half of them die from the disease.
High blood cholesterol usually does not cause any symptoms, so people who already age 30 or older should have cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years to make sure that your cholesterol levels are at a normal range.
If you have high LDL cholesterol, you may take these simple steps to lower your cholesterol levels naturally and prevent the risk of developing heart disease.
1. Follow a low cholesterol diet
The nutrition expert recommends taking the following diet tips for keeping your cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
- Cut down on saturated fat
Saturated fat is a type of fat that has been shown to increase LDL cholesterol. They recommend limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of your total daily calories. (If you eat 2,000 calories per day, this is less than 15.5 grams of saturated fat.)
The main sources of saturated fat include red meat, butter, cheese, palm oil, whole milk and full-fat dairy products.
- Avoid trans fat
Trans fats are industrially processed unsaturated fats which behave like saturated fat in the body. Trans fats are created to extend the shelf life of foods but are more harmful to your lipid levels than saturated fats. So, it’s important to avoid or limit your daily intake of trans fats to no more than 1 percent of your total daily calories. Most of the trans fats in the American diet are found in commercially prepared baked goods, processed foods, snack foods, margarine, and commercially prepared fried foods.
- Limit your cholesterol intake
Limit your intake of cholesterol from food to less than 300 mg per day. If you have heart disease or you’re taking a cholesterol-lowering medication, it’s best to consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol per day. Foods high in cholesterol include red meat, liver, egg yolks, bacon, sausages, and full-fat dairy products.
- Replace saturated fats with healthier ones
Most of the fat in your diet should come from unsaturated fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level when you use them in place of saturated and trans fats in your diet. Keep total fat to less than 35 percent of total calories, or below 78 grams for 2,000 calories.
Polyunsaturated fats are found primarily in safflower oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, corn oil, flax seeds oil walnuts, and fish. While monounsaturated fats are found often in foods like avocados, nuts, olive oil, and canola oil.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight tends to increase your LDL cholesterol levels and reduce your HDL levels. People who are overweight are also more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and other serious health problems.
If you have excess weight, losing your extra weight can significantly decrease your LDL levels and reduce the health risks.
3. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and lower LDL cholesterol. When you exercise, you tone up your whole body’s circulation, helping to clear away clots in the blood vessels and making the heart a stronger, more efficient pump.
Experts recommend that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. If you can’t devote a full 30 minutes all at once, several shorter periods of physical activity throughout the day can add up to 30-minute recommendation. Aerobic exercises, like walking, running jogging, biking, and swimming, are particularly helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol.
4. Avoid smoking
While smoking does not directly increase your LDL cholesterol, but it can decreases your HDL cholesterol, which can indirectly cause a rise in LDL. Smoking can also speeds up the forming of plaque in the wall of arteries, which increase your chance of having heart disease.
If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your LDL cholesterol and prevent the risk of heart attack and stroke.