You may not realise this, especially given the bad reputation that high cholesterol has in health and fitness circles, but not all cholesterol is bad. High-density lipoproteins or HDL is also known as good cholesterol and high levels of it are known to be good for health. On the other hand, low-density lipoprotein or LDL is known as bad cholesterol because high levels of it in the blood indicates a higher risk for heart diseases.
Another misconception is that young people don’t need to worry about high cholesterol or its effects on the cardiovascular system because it’s only high LDL levels in middle age that lead to heart disease. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests otherwise. This study says those who have elevated levels of LDL during their teenage years or in their 20s are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. This higher risk, the study found, persists even in those young people who were able to later lower their LDL cholesterol levels.
This indicates that taking preventive steps against high cholesterol is of vital importance even at a young age. If you are at risk of high cholesterol, then the following lifestyle changes will help prevent the disease and reduce the risk of the associated heart health issues.
1. Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle leads to not just high cholesterol, but also obesity, lack of muscle strength and endurance. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day and lose any excess fat you may have. Staying in shape is one of the best ways of avoiding high cholesterol.
2. Say no to bad fats: Saturated fats and trans fats are bad for your health and lead to an increase in LDL levels. A diet with monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids is good for your heart health and helps reduce LDL levels. This suggests you should avoid deep-fried and fried foods and instead rely on sources of healthy fats like fish, olives, nuts and seeds.
3. Get more fiber: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all rich in dietary fiber. A diet rich in dietary fiber is known to reduce LDL levels while giving a boost to the HDL levels – which is great for your heart health. Consume at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day and include whole grains, nuts and seeds in your diet.
4. Quit smoking: Smoking doesn’t just affect your lung health. Studies have shown that this bad habit also reduces HDL levels and increases overall cholesterol levels. Smokers are also more likely to have clogged arteries, which is a high-risk factor for heart diseases. Quitting smoking can eventually reverse all these health issues.
5. Limit alcohol: There’s a reason why drinking more than moderate amounts (one drink a day for women and two a day for men at max) of alcohol is not recommended by healthcare professionals all over the world. While many studies have shown that drinking such moderate amounts of alcohol can improve heart health, drinking too much every day or regularly has the opposite effect. It can increase your LDL levels and damage your liver too. Limiting your alcohol intake is therefore important.
For more information, read our article on High cholesterol.
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