For people with familial hypercholesterolemia, often the only choice to effectively get their cholesterol levels under control is through medication. However, lifestyle changes can also contribute significantly in the balancing of cholesterol levels.
As with any health disorder, it is always advisable to consult with your physician to determine the best course of action for your specific condition. In addition to medical treatment, these are some lifestyle adjustments that your doctor might suggest to help raise good cholesterol levels:
Even just a few extra pounds can contribute significantly to bad cholesterol levels. And vice-versa, you can experience lifesaving improvements by reducing just a small percentage of your weight.
Start by making an honest evaluation of your eating habits and exercise routine. Identify manageable ways to change your habits. For example, instead of doing “exercise”, start doing a physical activity that you enjoy and would be motivated to continue. Instead of buying fast food for lunch, try packing a lunch from home. Substitute chips and mayonnaise-based dips with carrot and celery sticks, and freshly made tomato salsa.
Eat Heart Healthy Foods
Foods that help raise good cholesterol levels are those high in Omega-3, such as fish and nuts. Oily fishes, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are especially healthy. Try baking or grilling the fish to avoid adding other less healthy oils to your meal. Instead of snacking on chips, which are high in trans fats, try eating nuts—such as walnuts, almonds and peanuts—that help raise HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).
Several studies show that moderate levels of activity help raise good cholesterol levels. Consult with your doctor about working up to around 30 minutes of brisk exercise each day. Also, the benefits of exercise are accumulative through the day, so you can do three sessions of 10 minutes instead. Remember to make your exercise fun by doing an activity you like and establish a routine you are likely to stick to. Consider an exercise buddy to keep you motivated. Helpful activities include taking a brisk walk most days of the week, riding a bike to work, swimming, or playing your favorite sport.
While this will likely raise good cholesterol, the principal advantage is that quitting smoking can halve your risk of getting a heart attack. Smoking also increases high blood pressure, which is a risk factor in developing hypercholesterolemia. Even passive smoking can have an effect.
Drink Alcohol Only Moderately
Excessive alcohol consumption comes with its own health risks, but if you already drink alcohol regularly, studies have shown that moderate consumption can help raise good cholesterol levels. The benefits are small, but it’s another good reason to have a glass of red wine with your meals. Hard liquors, such as whiskey and vodka, have significantly less effect than beer and wine.
It takes a while for your body to adjust to lifestyle change, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Remember to make lifestyle changes you can stick to and try to have fun with it!