LDL cholesterol, or commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, is a major risk factor for heart disease. This because it can build up in the walls of the arteries and form plaque, which can narrow and reduce the flow of blood to vital areas of the body.
A healthy or normal LDL cholesterol level is under 100 mg/dL. An LDL of between 100 and 129 mg/dL is near optimal or good. A measure of 130-159 mg/dL is borderline-high, levels of 160–189 are considered high and anything near 190 mg/dL is very high.
If you have high LDL cholesterol, here are some effective ways to lower it and keep it within a healthy range.
1. Follow a heart-healthy eating plan
A heart-healthy eating plan can help you manage your cholesterol, blood pressure, and other risk factors for heart disease. The plan focuses on adding more healthy foods to your plan and cutting back on foods that aren’t good for your heart health.
The American Heart Association recommends following a heart-healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy, and fish. It encourages eating foods low in saturated and trans fats and sodium, and limiting added sugars and red meats.
2. Be physical active
Being physically inactive is a biggest risk factor for high blood cholesterol and heart disease. Regular exercise can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week for adults.
Moderate intensity means that the activity requires some effort but you can still talk while doing them. Examples of moderate intensity activities include brisk walking, dancing, hiking and riding a bike.
Vigorous intensity activity is more challenging so you won’t be able to say more than a few words before catching your breath. Examples of vigorous intensity activities include jogging, running, jumping rope, swimming laps, and aerobic dancing.
3. Maintain a normal weight
Obesity is another major risk factor for high cholesterol. Research has shown that losing even 5% to 10% of your body weight can significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels. A combination of diet and exercise will be the most efficient way to achieve this.
4. Quit smoking
Smoking has been shown to decrease good cholesterol levels. Prolonged smoking also damages your arteries, which puts you at greater risk for plaque that can clog your arteries.
Smoking is a leading contributor to heart disease, cancer, and other serious diseases. It also negatively affects those around you. It’s never too late to quit smoking. In fact, as soon as you stop smoking, your body starts recovering. Over time, your risk of life-threatening health conditions, like heart disease and stroke, drop dramatically. Check out these tips to help you quit smoking.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation
Excessive alcohol intake has long been known to increase triglyceride levels. Elevated triglyceride levels can contribute to the hardening of the arteries, which leads to increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Drinking too much of alcoholic drinks also increase the risk of high blood pressure. That’s why it is important to do so in moderation, which means only one drink per day for women and two drinks for men.