Ways to Improve Your Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance in your blood. It increases your chance of heart disease, stroke, and other problems. Many things may put you at risk for high cholesterol. You can’t control some of these risks such as your age, gender, or family history. Fortunately, the list of things you can control is longer: It includes your weight, diet, exercise, blood sugar, and smoking.1
Let’s take a look at what this might mean for you.
Maybe you’ve put on a few (or more than a few) pounds in the last couple of years. Or your recent New Year’s resolution was short-lived, making that gym membership a bit of a waste! Don’t scold yourself. Just start over.
The good news is some changes may give you a “twofer.” For example, eating healthy foods can reduce the amount of cholesterol you are taking into your body. It can also help you lose weight, which lowers LDL (bad cholesterol).2
· More fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods high in fiber such as whole grains and beans
· Fewer foods that contain cholesterol, trans fats, or saturated fats such as fatty meats and whole milk, cream, butter, cheese, and ice cream2
Increasing your exercise not only lowers your LDL. It also raises levels of HDL (good cholesterol), which carries bad cholesterol away.2 Take steps to enhance your chance of success, especially if exercise is a bit foreign to you. Gradually increase the intensity and length of your exercise routines. Or find an exercise partner to help you stay motivated.
Sometimes lifestyle changes are simply not enough to get your cholesterol into a safe range. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe a special medicine to lower your cholesterol. Make sure you take it exactly the way your doctor directs. If you don’t, it may not work.3 Just remember: The pharmacist can double check to make sure you’re on the right track. And, if cost is an issue, ask your pharmacist whether a generic version of your medicine is available.4
Statins are one type of medicine commonly prescribed for high cholesterol. You’ve probably heard a lot about this medicine. Recent studies have added encouraging news about statins.
For example, statins may help kids who have a genetic type of cholesterol disorder.5 They may also help boost survival rates after people have a certain type of stroke.6 Statins may even prevent common and serious complications from diabetes. They apparently protect against damage to small blood vessels that can lead to blindness or amputations.7
None of this means medicine gives you a free pass to smoke, overeat, and be a couch potato. Instead, lifestyle changes can work together with medicine to improve your cholesterol levels even more. And, as you already know, these changes can really improve your overall quality of life.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
1. Merckengage.com: “Risk Factors for High Cholesterol.” Available at: http://www.merckengage.com/common/article.aspx?ID=524 Accessed October 22, 2014.
2. Merckengage.com: “Make a Plan to Manage Your High Cholesterol.” Available at: http://www.merckengage.com/common/article.aspx?ID=517 Accessed October 22, 2014.
3. Merckengage.com: “Taking Medicine to Help Lower Your Cholesterol.” Available at: http://www.merckengage.com/common/article.aspx?ID=518 Accessed October 22, 2014.
4. MedlinePlus: “Older Patients More Likely to Fill Prescriptions for Generic Statins: Study.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_148392.html Accessed October 21, 2014.
5. MedlinePlus: “Statins May Help Kids With Genetic Cholesterol Disorder.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_148285.html Accessed October 21, 2014.
6. WebMD: “Cholesterol Drugs May Help After Certain Strokes.” Available at: http://www.webmd.com/stroke/news/20140923/cholesterol-lowering-drugs-may-help-after-certain-strokes Accessed October 22, 2014.
7. MedlinePlus: “Statins May Help Prevent Diabetes-Related Nerve Damage, Study Finds.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_148289.html Accessed October 21, 2014.