The final two factors of cholesterol: physical activity and weight.
- Daily physical activity helps reduce the risk of heart disease and can also help with weight management. It can help lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and additionally boost your good cholesterol levels (HDL). Exercise helps speed up the rate that LDL molecules are sent back to the liver to be turned into bile salts or excreted. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most, if not all days. Additional physical activity may be needed for weight loss/weight management. Any exercise is better than no exercise; however, research indicates that exercise performed at higher intensities may be more effective at lowering LDL cholesterol levels and additionally raising the good HDL levels.
- Find an activity that you love, or even several activities so you can vary up your routine. A combination of strength-training and cardio exercises has shown to be very beneficial for reducing risk factors for heart disease (weight loss, lowering blood pressure and lowering cholesterol levels).
- Exercise alone cannot guarantee one will not have high cholesterol. Diet and genetics also play very strong roles in determining one’s cholesterol levels. However, additional benefits observed from being physically active include bone strength, mood improvement, stress management and can decrease the risk of diabetes, cancer and stroke.
- Being overweight/obese is an additional risk factor for heart disease. Weight gain also tends to increase cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help decrease LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol levels and help increase HDL levels.
- Losing just 5-10% of body weight can show improvements in cholesterol levels. Consuming 500 less calories every day can help you lose 1 pound per week. You can even combine this with exercise by consuming 250 less calories every day additionally to burning 250 calories from exercise. Easy ways to cut down on calories include:
- Eliminating soda, sweet tea, juice or other sugary-sweetened beverages.
- Using one slice of bread instead of two.
- Limiting cheese consumption.
- Avoid snacking while at the computer/watching TV.
- Swap your potato chips or pretzels for carrots, bell pepper slices and celery sticks.
- Choosing a side salad instead of a side of pasta or potatoes.
Sometimes, diet and lifestyle are not enough to lower your cholesterol levels to a safe range. Your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication. Always take these medications as prescribed. Additionally, consult with your physician if you are considering taking an herbal supplement to decrease your cholesterol levels. In many cases, the safety of these supplements has not been proven since their dosage amounts are unregulated.