10 mistakes you’re making raising your cholesterol

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10 mistakes you’re making raising your cholesterol

One of the major risk factors for heart disease is having a high blood cholesterol level.  The higher the number, the greater your chance is for having a heart attack or stroke.  The number one killer of adult Americans is heart disease with more than one million Americans who have heart issues and about a half million people who die from heart disease.  The more you understand cholesterol, the more likely you will take steps to prevent heart disease from developing to begin with.  But, many of us may unknowingly be doing things contributing to high cholesterol levels.  Here are 10 mistakes possibly affecting your cholesterol numbers negatively:

1.  You have not been tested

The only way to know your cholesterol number is to have a blood test.  Because high blood cholesterol has no symptoms, many people will be unaware that their cholesterol level is elevated.  Knowing your cholesterol level means you can make important lifestyle changes correcting the situation. Quitting smoking, eating healthier, exercising, and taking medication if necessary all can help.  Depending on your doctor, family history of heart disease and lifestyle, will determine when to begin testing your cholesterol levels.  Generally, starting at age 20, it is advised to be checked every 4 to 6 years for the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

2.  You’re not working out

One of the best ways to control your cholesterol is to be physically active most days of the week.  No one is saying you have to be signing up for marathons but it is important to do some form of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each week.  This could mean walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, tennis, basketball, any activity that gets the heart elevated above normal for a sustained length of time. 

Exercise helps lower cholesterol by helping you lose or maintain body weight.  Carrying excess pounds can increase “bad” or LDL cholesterol in the blood which is the one linked to heart disease.  Physical activity also increases the size of protein particles that carry cholesterol through the blood.   This means a less likelihood of smaller, dense particles that can squeeze into the linings of the heart and blood vessels causing inflammation. 

3.  You sit too many hours each day

Prolonged sitting has been called the new smoking and some health professionals believe it can be just as dangerous to your heart health.  Sitting too long can lower your “good” or HDL cholesterol which carries away bad substances from the arteries.  If you have a desk job where you sit most of the day, make it a point to get up and move every 30 minutes or consider using a standing desk.

4.  You still smoke

You know it’s not good for you but you’re doing it anyway.  Stop.  When you smoke you are lowering your HDL cholesterol.  In addition smoking is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, COPD, and emphysema.  Making the decision to quit will be the best decision of your life and your arteries will thank you immensely.

5.  You’ve gained too much weight

Those excess pounds, especially around your waist or belly fat, are no friend to your cholesterol.  Weight gain will raise bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol.  The good news just a 10% reduction in weight can have a positive effect on you cholesterol numbers.  Start a diet and exercise program that you can manage for life to help you lose the weight safely and permanently.

6.  You eat too many foods high in saturated fat

It is always a good idea to keep your intake of saturated fats as low as possible.  Saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels risking increasing heart disease.  Some of the main sources of saturated fat include pizza, cheese, butter, cream, whole milk, sausage, ice cream, bacon, and fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb as well as tropical oils like palm and coconut.  Replace highly saturated foods with foods containing healthy fats – fatty fish like salmon and tuna, nuts and seeds, plant oils such as olive or canola, and avocadoes.  Also choose lean meat or skinless poultry, trim visible fat off meat before cooking it, and choose lower-fat dairy products such as 1% fat or skimmed milk, and low-fat or nonfat yogurts. 

7.  You fiber intake is low

Many Americans forget to eat enough fiber.  Fiber comes in two forms – soluble or insoluble.  Both are good for heart health and most foods containing fiber have both.  Eating enough fiber benefits your cholesterol levels.  Soluble fiber is particularly good for lowering bad or LDL cholesterol through its ability to reduce the amount of bile reabsorbed in the intestines.  Include high fiber food sources such as wheat bran, vegetables, fruit with skin, oatmeal, peas, beans, and citrus fruits. 

8.  You overindulge in alcohol

Drink too much and your cholesterol levels will suffer by reaching unhealthy levels.  Men should have no more than two drinks per day while women only one.  Following this recommendation may also boost your HDL or good cholesterol. 

9.  You are not treating other medical conditions

If you already have other medical conditions you may have been ignoring or not treating, this can also elevate your cholesterol number.  High blood pressure, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, and hypothyroidism, can be culprits in seeing a spike in cholesterol.  Be sure to manage these conditions with proper medical care to help you reach a healthier cholesterol level.

10.  You fail to take your cholesterol medication faithfully

Failing to follow your doctor’s orders on taking your prescription cholesterol medication will do you no favors in keeping your numbers in check.  If you tend to skip your dosages, do not try to “makeup” doses by taking more the next time. Sometimes cost of the medication or unpleasant side effects can be factors for skipping doses.  If so, make your doctor aware of this to look into the possibility of another drug to use or to consider more natural ways of lowering cholesterol.