3. Help your body make more ‘good’ cholesterol
If you are overweight, smoke, or sit too much and move too little, your body will likely have less “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
On the other hand, if you quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight and get enough exercise — research suggests something like “moderate” activity, which is about 30 minutes a day, five days a week — your good (HDL) cholesterol levels will get better. No gym membership required: Walk the dog at a quick pace, ride your bike to work or try something else that you can stick with.
Like a lack of exercise, smoking lowers your “good” cholesterol (HDL); it can also raise your triglycerides.
4. Eat fewer fried and fatty foods
Unfiltered coffee and cheesy omelets aren’t the only hazard at brunch. Watch out for high-fat baked goods like muffins, waffles, pancakes and chocolate croissants. “Unfortunately, people often [drink] the French press [coffee] with the baked goods,” Watson points out.
Row after row of grocery store shelves is devoted to the type of tasty treats that are tempting but not good for your cholesterol: ice cream, cookies and the like.
Other seemingly innocuous foods are risky if you eat too much of them — take, for example, full-fat dairy and red meat. There are at least two reasons why: saturated fats and trans fats (which may be called partially hydrogenated oil on packaged foods). Both of these can raise the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
For people with high triglycerides, “eating the appropriate food (salmon, vegetables, foods low in sugar, for example) can reduce triglycerides by 30 percent or more,” Newman says. If you eat too many carbohydrates or drink too much alcohol on a regular basis, cutting back may also lower your triglycerides, though more research is needed.
A very high level of triglycerides “may lead to inflammation of the pancreas,” Newman notes, as well as liver and/or kidney disease, hypothyroidism and diabetes. High triglyceride levels have also been linked with heart disease.
5. Take your cholesterol-lowering medicine exactly as prescribed
Statins — medications used to lower bad cholesterol and reduce a patient’s risk of having a heart attack or a stroke — can be effective, “even in people over the age of 75,” Newman says.
“If your risk [for heart-related issues] is going up every year that you age and your cholesterol is going up every year that you age, most older people will be recommended to start a statin,” Watson adds.
It’s crucial to take these medications exactly as your doctor prescribes them, typically every day. What’s more, never stop a statin medication without consulting with your doctor, Newman says.