Is your “bad” cholesterol too high? You can take many steps to lower it and raise your "good" kind -- without a drastic change in your life.
"Finding ways to improve your heart health can be easy, fun, and doable," says cardiologist Stacey Rosen, MD, vice president of women's health at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York.
Get started today with these 8 tips.
1. Order the guacamole.
Some types of fat are healthier for your heart than others. Avocados are rich in the good kind. In one small study, overweight and obese people who ate one a day for 5 weeks improved their total cholesterol and LDL (the "bad" kind).
Since they are also high in calories, don’t overdo it. Even with the kinds of fat that are better for you, you should still keep your portions modest.
2. Track first, change later.
Cutting back on saturated fat is a must to curb LDL cholesterol and protect your heart. The American Heart Association says only 5% to 6% of your total daily calories should come from saturated fat. That’s about 11 to 13 grams. Check food labels for how much saturated fat is in a serving.
Jot down everything you eat in a food diary for 2 weeks, even if you don't make any changes just yet. That gives you a chance to review your habits and see where you could make changes, Rosen says.
For instance, you might notice that you could change from half-and-half to 2% milk in your coffee. Then look for places where you can take more steps to cut back.
3. Pound the pavement.
Walk briskly twice a day: morning and evening, for instance. It all counts toward your goal of 30 minutes of moderate activity at least 5 days a week.
What’s moderate? You should walk fast enough to get your heart beating a bit faster. But you don’t have to race-walk unless you want to. Bring your dog, mate, or a pal for good company.
4. Decide how far you want to take your diet.
You know you’re going to make some changes for better cholesterol. Are you going to go vegetarian or vegan? Or do you want to keep some meat, fish, and poultry?