Did you know that cholesterol plays a key role in building strong and healthy cells? However, if it exists in excessive amounts in the body, it can be dangerous and put you at great risk of a heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems.
Having high cholesterol levels means that there are fatty deposits that have formed in your blood vessels, making it hard for blood to flow and circulate through your arteries. In some cases, these deposits can even break and create clots, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
How do you know if you have high cholesterol?
High cholesterol does not really trigger signs and symptoms. The only way to find out if your body’s cholesterol levels are too high is by taking a blood test in which three things are measured — total cholesterol, HDL or good cholesterol, and LDL or bad cholesterol.
In adults, the ideal total cholesterol levels are less than 200 milligrams per deciliter. If your total testosterone level is over 200 milligrams per deciliter but less than 239 milligrams per deciliter, this means you are in the borderline high category. And, if your cholesterol level is greater than 240 milligram per deciliter, you have high cholesterol.
When it comes to HDL or good cholesterol, levels that are 60 milligrams per deciliter or higher are ideal. If your HDL level is between 41 milligrams per deciliter and 59 milligrams per deciliter, this means that you are in the borderline low category. And, if your HDL level is less than 40 milligrams per deciliter, your risk of heart disease is high.
Now, when talking about LDL or bad cholesterol, levels that are below 100 milligrams per deciliter are classified as ideal. If yours is between 100 milligrams per deciliter and 129 milligrams per deciliter, you are okay if you have no existing health problems but have to be concerned if you are already dealing with high blood pressure and other health problems. However, if your level gets to over 160 milligrams per deciliter, you have high cholesterol and need to see a doctor immediately.
What foods can help lower cholesterol levels?
To lower your body’s cholesterol levels, you should eat a healthy and balanced diet that is made up of foods that are rich in essential vitamins and minerals. The following are some good examples:
Avocados are overflowing with essential nutrients that can boost your overall health and wellbeing. They are an excellent source of fiber and monounsaturated fats, which are valuable in increasing your body’s HDL or good cholesterol and reducing your LDL or bad cholesterol. According to one study, adults who are overweight and obese can effectively lower their LDL levels by eating one avocado a day.
Walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for heart health. They are also loaded with potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which are key nutrients in lowering blood pressure levels and risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications. In one study, it was found that consuming 2 to 3 servings of walnuts a day can lower the risk of heart disease by 28% and reduce LDL or bad cholesterol by about 10 milligrams per deciliter.
Fish contain an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, which are key to boosting your HDL or good cholesterol, and reducing your risk of stroke, inflammation, and heart disease. There was a study that found that adults who ate tuna or some other fatty fish that was non-fried, broiled, or baked showed a 27% decrease in their risk of stroke. Other healthy fish that you can include in your diet are herring and salmon.
Oats are a type of whole grain that offers a long list of health benefits. Over the years, several research studies have found that they can help improve heart function and reduce the risk of heart disease. According to health experts, eating three servings of oats or other whole grains a day can lower your risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease by as much as 20%. Beta-glucan, which is the soluble fiber found in oats, can also aid in lowering your LDL or bad cholesterol by 7%, and your total cholesterol by 5%.
Cocoa is a healthy food that can reduce your LDL or bad cholesterol. In one study, it was found that adults who drank two servings of cocoa drink a day in a span of one month showed an average decrease of 6.5 milligrams per deciliter in their LDL or bad cholesterol levels. According to the findings, their HDL or good cholesterol levels increased and their blood pressure levels decreased too.
Legumes are a nutrient-dense food that is good for the heart. It is loaded with fiber, protein, and essential minerals, which can aid in cholesterol and blood pressure management. In one study, it was found that adults who ate 100 grams or half a cup of legume a day had lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels than those who did not eat legumes. Examples of legumes to add to your daily meals are lentils, beans, and peas.
What other lifestyle changes should you do to lower your cholesterol levels and protect your heart?
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is only one of the many natural ways you can prevent high cholesterol and heart disease. Below are some more lifestyle changes you should do for optimal heart health:
If you are overweight or obese, you have to start working on losing weight to protect your cholesterol levels and heart. You should eat more fruits and vegetables, fiber, and lean meat, and cut down on sugary, fatty, and salty foods.
Being physically active can raise your body’s HDL or good cholesterol. In addition to that, it can improve your mood and energy levels, strengthen your heart and lungs, build stronger bones and muscles, and enhance your stamina and endurance.
If you give up smoking, you can protect not only your cholesterol levels and heart but also the rest of your body from the harmful elements contained in cigarettes that can damage your blood vessels, make it easier for fatty deposits to form, and reduce your HDL or good cholesterol.