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Reading about the differences in “‘good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol can be confusing. Where there is one cholesterol that you want to keep low and another that can stay higher, it’s no wonder that patients turn to their cardiologists for guidance. 

Luckily, when it comes to taking steps to lower your cholesterol, the process is fairly straightforward. Cholesterol-lowering medications are an option but not always a requirement for all patients. Many people are able to lower their cholesterol levels simply by making lifestyle adjustments. 

Below, we’ve outlined some simple methods you can incorporate into your routine to lower your cholesterol levels. 

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that exists in the body. Cholesterol naturally exists in the body but we also get additional cholesterol from the foods we eat. There are two types of cholesterol– LDL and HDL. 

LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol. This type of cholesterol transports throughout the body and can eventually build up within the blood vessels. 

HDL cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol. It also transports throughout the body but its route leads to the liver where the cholesterol is broken down and excreted out of the body. 

High cholesterol can vary depending on your age, risk factors and what type of cholesterol you’re looking at. We actually want cholesterol levels to be higher when looking at HDL levels. For LDL levels, we want them lower. In general, total cholesterol should be kept below 200 mg/dL. When the total cholesterol is above 240 mg/dL, it’s considered high. 

Is high cholesterol preventable?

Even though 38% of adults in the United States have high cholesterol, it is preventable and treatable. The most common risks linked to high cholesterol include obesity, family history, smoking, excessive drinking and a poor diet. 

When it comes to the treatment of high cholesterol, there is a heavy focus on diet and exercise. If lifestyle changes don’t work, your doctor may want to put you on a specific medication, such as statins, to bring down your cholesterol levels. 

Eating a heart healthy diet and exercising regularly is what can prevent your levels from rising. If your levels do happen to get high, your simple daily habits can still be a key indicator to your levels dropping back down. As previously mentioned, if your lifestyle changes don’t help lower your levels, it may be that you will need to start taking medication. 

It is possible to be born with high cholesterol as well. In this case, you cannot “prevent” it but implementing these healthy habits into your lifestyle is still important. 

Overall, beginning treatment early is key to keeping cholesterol levels at bay. When cholesterol levels get out of hand, it can lead to heart disease, chest pain, heart attack and stroke. Excessive buildup of cholesterol in the arteries causes narrowing of the vessels which forces the heart to work harder in order to pump blood throughout the body. This buildup of plaque can also be dislodged, causing a blood clot somewhere down the line. If the blood clot reaches the heart or brain, it can cause a heart attack or stroke which could be fatal.  

5 Heart-Healthy Tips to Lower Cholesterol

Even if you have high cholesterol, it isn’t too late to improve your cardiac health — you may not even need to go on medications right away! There are plenty of effective steps that can be taken to lower your cholesterol that are easily accessible to just about anyone. 

Live an active lifestyle

Exercising regularly is great for overall cardiovascular health. We recommend moderate physical activity for 30 minutes, five times per week. Some exercise methods that can help lower cholesterol include walking, running, cycling and swimming. These exercises lower cholesterol by helping to move LDL cholesterol to the liver for excretion; they also help to improve circulation and strengthen the heart. 

Eat a heart-healthy diet

A heart-healthy diet that is high in fiber and low in trans fat and saturated fat helps to keep cholesterol levels low. Certain unhealthy foods increase cholesterol levels, such as fried foods, fatty animal products and processed foods. 

Foods that lower cholesterol include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and leaner meats such as fish. You should also incorporate heart-healthy snacks into your diet like good-quality nuts and fruit. By eliminating fried foods, packaged baked goods, potato chips and butter, you are reducing the amount of trans fat and saturated fat consumed which directly impacts cholesterol levels. 

Cut back on harmful habits

Smoking and drinking are considered harmful habits that can be damaging to your overall health. They particularly have an effect on heart health because smoking makes your LDL cholesterol more sticky, causing it to cling more to your artery walls. Alcohol is broken down by the liver and converted to cholesterol and triglycerides, so excessive drinking makes cholesterol levels higher. If you want to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, you should stop smoking and moderate your drinking. 

Maintain a healthy weight

Individuals who are overweight are more likely to have high cholesterol levels. This is because excess body fat can lead to more fatty acids floating throughout the body and ultimately getting to the liver. Maintaining a healthy weight is an effective way to lower cholesterol levels. Once you’ve incorporated regular exercise and a healthy diet into your routine, shedding extra pounds should come fairly easy. 

Visit a cardiologist

Your cardiologist in Orlando can help guide the process in changing your lifestyle habits to bring cholesterol levels down. They can also teach you how to prevent heart disease through regular testing and treatment when necessary. There is a good chance that you can lower bad cholesterol levels without the need of resorting to medications. At UCF Health, we recognize that every patient requires their own unique treatment plan. We work closely with our patients to help you stay informed about your health and deliver a personalized plan to fit your needs.

Final Thoughts

Getting cholesterol levels checked regularly is an effective way to maintain your health and keep your heart functioning well. If you haven’t had cholesterol levels checked recently, you should plan to see your doctor soon so that you can remain informed about your health. By knowing your cholesterol levels, you can be proactive in ensuring and maintaining your wellness.

Dr. Bernard Gros, UCF Health’s skilled cardiologist, canto help patients just like you get a handle on your cardiac health. He applies his expertise to help patients with lipid disorders such as high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Dr. Gros works closely with patients to develop a personalized treatment plan since no two patients are alike. Identifying cardiac issues like high cholesterol early on can improve outcomes significantly. Start working with a cardiologist today to take command of your heart health. Use our online scheduling to plan your next visit.