Lifestyle Changes to Help You Manage HeFH

If you have heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH), you'll need to make some long-term changes to manage the disease. Medicines, the right diet, and exercise will help bring your cholesterol numbers down and cut your chances of getting heart disease.

Change Your Eating Habits

To help prevent complications from HeFH, doctors suggest you tweak your diet to make it as healthy as possible. Watch your calories and eat foods that are low in unhealthy fat and cholesterol.

Some high-fat items to avoid are fast food, margarine, cakes, and cookies. Eat more food that's high in fiber, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains. 

You can track what you eat by keeping a journal or working with a nutritionist. Once you learn some easy tips on what foods to avoid or substitute, the diet will become second nature. Some ways to get started:

  • Stay away from prepackaged, highly processed, and deep-fried foods.
  • Avoid butter, margarine, salad dressing, and mayonnaise. Try vegetable oil instead.
  • Choose lean meat like chicken, fish, and turkey and avoid red or fatty meat like beef and bacon.
  • Limit drinks with alcohol or a lot of sugar.
  • Choose nonfat or low-fat dairy.
  • Eat a wide variety of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

Exercise

Even if you eat an ideal diet and are a healthy weight, it's important to stay active. Do some aerobic exercise -- activity that gets your heart pumping -- for at least 30 minutes, 4 or more times a week, to help lower the levels of fats and cholesterol in your blood.

Some ways to stay active are walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, biking, climbing stairs at work, or playing sports.

Set a goal for how much you want to exercise and start slowly. Then gradually increase the number of times per week you work out and the length of time you do it.

Putting It All Together

Studies with people who have HeFH show that the healthier your lifestyle, the less likely you are to get heart disease in the future. Try to maintain a healthy weight, keep your blood pressure under control, and if you smoke, quit. Talk to your doctor about how to make these changes in the safest way for you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on November 05, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Medscape: "Familial Hypercholesterolemia Treatment & Management."

Varghese, M.J. Annals of Pediatric Cardiology, 2014.

National Lipid Association: "Familial Hypercholesterolemia: An educational booklet for patients."

UCSF Medical Center: "Guidelines for a Low Cholesterol, Low Saturated Fat Diet."

AHA: "American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults," "Endurance Exercise."

Robinson, J.G. Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, 2013.

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