7 Simple Tips to Maintain Good HDL Cholesterol
Let’s have a good heart to heart conversation.
Fair enough, it’s more a one way (Seniors Today to you) – but the reality is that your heart is precious and it’s under threat because cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) have now become the leading cause of mortality in India. A quarter of all mortality is attributable to CVD. Ischemic heart disease and stroke are the predominant causes and are responsible for 80% of CVD deaths.
It’s tricky to spot early warning signs, as high cholesterol itself doesn’t typically cause noticeable symptoms – but it’s linked with an increased risk of heart disease, so it pays to know if your levels are potentially a cause for concern.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that’s found naturally in the blood. Although we need a certain amount to function, there are different types of cholesterol – LDL (or ‘bad’ cholesterol) and HDL (or ‘good’ cholesterol). It only really becomes a problem when our levels of LDL cholesterol are too high.
Our cholesterol levels are measured with a simple blood test. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is a worry for many people as if there’s too much, it can slowly build up in your artery walls, making it difficult for blood to flow through. This makes you more likely to develop heart problems or suffer a stroke.
As seniors we all run our mandatory tests prescribed by our GP, especially if high cholesterol runs in the family. In some cases, medications may be advised, but a few simple lifestyle measures also play an important role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
Here are seven healthy lifestyle measures that can help keep your cholesterol in check:
1. Opt for healthy snacks when you’re feeling peckish
If your GP has advised you to change your diet to reduce your blood cholesterol, one of the most important things can be cutting down on saturated fat. Rich foods, like fried snacks, fatty cuts of meat, cream, cheese, butter and milk chocolate (high in milk fat solids), cakes and pastries can all add to your daily saturated fat count.
We eat with our eyes first, so keep fruit and veggies and heart healthy snacks at eye level. Hide the sweet treats and fried farsan that will tempt you, in an opaque container, out of reach at the back of the cupboard.
Opt for roasted makhanas with nuts, homemade chivda, jowar and nachani pops (like makhanas) – add your favourite seasoning (garlic, curry patta, paprika, green chillies,); and keep that dark chocolate (65% +) at hand too!
2. Don’t skip your daily walk
Leaving the house for some fresh air during the day isn’t just vital for your mental health, staying active can help keep cholesterol levels in check too.
Exercise has a whole host of benefits for your mental and physical health – including improving your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol level. It’s recommended that healthy adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, like jogging or playing a sport.
Try to include muscle strengthening activities into you weekly routine too, such as yoga, lifting weights, or even something as simple as gardening.
3. Cut down on booze
With all the bad news that’s swirling around, it’s tempting to rely on alcohol to escape but regular binge-drinking can put you at risk of both high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Drinking alcohol can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, so make 2021 your year to detoxify your system.
When your triglyceride levels [fatty acids] become too high, they can build up in the liver, causing fatty liver disease. The liver can’t work as well as it should and can’t remove cholesterol from your blood, so your cholesterol levels rise.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
It’s no surprise many of us [have] put on a few extra kilos around the lockdown period. But carrying a few extra kilos can contribute to high cholesterol.
Making a few small changes to your diet and lifestyle (do look up our diet articles – https://seniorstoday.in/health/diet/21-foods-for-a-trimmer-you/; https://seniorstoday.in/health/diet/21-healthy-alternatives-to-everyday-foods/ ; and many more), can really make a difference. In fact, losing just 10 per cent of your body weight will lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, your blood pressure and your risk of diabetes.
5. Load up on legumes
There’s no two ways about it – eating a healthy diet can really make a difference when it comes to your health. Prioritise legumes, lentils and beans; (chawli beans, chana, rajma, chick peas, and sprouts etc.), oats, as these contain a lot of fibre.
Fibre can bind with cholesterol in the gut and prevent its absorption. Research shows that eating 100g of legumes daily could help to lower non-HDL cholesterol by an average 6.6mg/dl compared to those who did not eat them.
6. Your cooking oil needs your attention
What’s not to love about butter, but something as simple as throwing a knob of butter into your pans on a regular basis could have an effect on your cholesterol. Swap butter lard and heavy oils for olive oil and seed-based oils instead.
7. Quit smoking… for good
When it comes to cholesterol, beyond diet and regular exercise – it’s also about what goes into our lungs. Stopping smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level and within just a day of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recovers from the cigarette-induced spike.
Within three months of quitting, your lung function and blood circulation begins to improve – and within a year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker.
There’s no better time to take action than now.
As always, we recommend that you consult with your GP and dietician before embarking on changes in your diet or lifestyle.