A couple of months ago, my mom reached out to me asking for help. She had received a call from her doctor's office saying that if she didn't make changes to her lifestyle, she was going to go on cholesterol medication. She had until her follow up appointment to make changes.
My mom has never been one to really place an emphasis on eating healthy or exercising. Prior to injuring her neck and back in a car accident, she stayed active by dancing. She loves to dance! But since getting hurt, she's adopted a completely sedentary lifestyle. Although she didn't appear unhealthy or overweight, the truth is that her cholesterol was rising and her weight to height ratio (or BMI) was in the overweight category.
I knew that for her to stick to a program, it had to be incredibly simple and have minimal dietary restrictions. Plus I had to consider how she was going to increase her physical activity, without aggravating her prior injuries. I created a simple meal plan for her that consisted of a variety of healthy yet delicious meal options that she could choose from. For example, she had 4 different options to choose from for lunch. As for her physical activity, I focused on having her go for 30-minute walks with my dad, every evening.
The end result: She's not taking medication for her cholesterol. She's more mindful of what she eats and her portion sizes. And I'm super happy to have been able to help my mom get healthier.
So what are some easy lifestyle changes someone can make to lower their cholesterol?
1. Make healthier food choices. Focus on reducing saturated fats (found in red meat and full-fat dairy), eliminate trans fats (found in margarines, cookies, crackers, cakes, etc.), increase your omega-3 foods (salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, and flaxseeds), increase soluble fiber (oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussel sprouts, apples, pears, etc.), and add whey protein to your diet.
2. Increase your physical activity. Be active for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Some simple ways to do so are to go for a walk during lunch or after dinner, ride your bike to work or get back into your favorite sport.
3. Quit smoking. Did you know that within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate go back to normal? Or that within 3 months, your circulation and lung function begins to improve? And within a year, your risk of heart disease is reduced by 50%? Plus you'll save a lot of money!
4. Lose weight, if necessary. Being in an unhealthy weight range plays a big role in high cholesterol. Switch the sodas and artificial drinks with water. Moderately snack on air-popped popcorn or pretzels, instead of chips and candy. Have a sweet tooth? Suck on a dumdum lollipop or jelly bean. Skip the elevator and take the stairs. Park further away from entrances.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation. What exactly does moderation mean? One drink a day for women, 2 drinks a day for men. But remember that consuming alcohol on a regular basis can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and strokes.
These tips are a great way to lower your cholesterol, in an effort to avoid medication. However, if your doctor recommends medication due to a current high level, use these tips in addition to your medication. You will be on a quicker road to recovery with lasting results - thanks to your new lifestyle habits.
Know someone who suffers from high cholesterol? Share these tips with them!