If you are one of millions of Americans who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, there are some things you can do to improve your cholesterol levels.  While your doctor may prescribe medication such as a statin drug, there are lifestyle changes that may also be beneficial.  Eating a healthy diet, increasing your physical activity, and losing unwanted pounds can all help reduce high cholesterol levels and lead to improved overall health.

High CholesterolCholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance found in the body’s cells.  The body produces its own cholesterol, and some cholesterol comes from the foods we eat.  Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, contributing to heart disease.

A diet high in saturated fats and trans fats contributes to high cholesterol levels.  Avoid foods like margarine, commercially produced baked goods, red meats, organ meats such as liver, and dairy products that are not low fat or fat-free.  Limit the number of eggs consumed, as the yolks are high in cholesterol.  Instead choose leaner meats, skim milk, and oils such as olive or canola.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish are recommended in a heart healthy diet.

Exercising regularly can help control cholesterol levels.  Even 15-30 minutes of physical activity daily can make a difference.  There is no need to purchase a gym membership.  Brisk walking, riding a bike, swimming, or playing tennis are all fun ways to keep active.  If you are not used to an exercise routine, start slowly with just a few minutes each day and work to build up your time.

Carrying around extra weight can contribute to high cholesterol levels.  Losing just a few pounds can make a difference.  A healthier diet and more exercise should make dropping excess pounds a little easier.  If you are having difficulty losing the weight or have many pounds to lose, consult your doctor for additional help in reaching your goal.