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7 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Cholesterol


written by Skye Sherman - May 3, 2022
medically reviewed by Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - May 27, 2022

7 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Cholesterol

Does your cholesterol need a spring cleaning? If your doctor has recommended lowering your cholesterol for any reason, it’s time to take action now before an issue arises. Having high cholesterol can lead to a whole host of issues, which we will discuss in greater detail below.

The good news is there are some simple ways to lower your cholesterol. This season, it’s time for a spring cleaning!

One of the best ways to get your cholesterol under control is to make better diet choices. But what exactly does that look like, and what other steps can you take to get your cholesterol levels to a healthier place? Read on to learn more about how to handle your health this season and beyond.

What causes high cholesterol?

Before we get into spring cleaning your cholesterol, it’s important to understand what high cholesterol is and what causes it.

Here are the basics of cholesterol, according to Mayo Clinic: “Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.”

That’s why high cholesterol can be so dangerous. In the next section, we will take a look in deeper detail about what high cholesterol can lead to.

Many different factors can contribute to having a high level of cholesterol in your blood. Sometimes it can be inherited, but mostly, high cholesterol is the result of lifestyle choices like smoking, an unhealthy diet, insufficient amount of exercise, or having an underlying condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Because high cholesterol is usually the result of poor lifestyle changes, the good news is you can both prevent and treat it. With healthy habits such as good diet and regular exercise, you may be able to stave off all the issues that high cholesterol can cause. Still, sometimes medication is required to reduce high cholesterol.

What can high cholesterol lead to?

There are usually no symptoms of high cholesterol to be looking out for unless someone has extremely high levels and the waxy cholesterol deposits show up on your skin. Otherwise, the only way to detect high cholesterol is a blood test.

That also means you may have dangerously high levels of cholesterol in your blood and not even be aware of it. That’s a scary thought when you consider that high cholesterol can lead to fatalities. Healthy heart choices are a vital aspect of controlling your cholesterol.

Mayo Clinic sums it up this way: “High cholesterol can cause a dangerous accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis). These deposits (plaques) can reduce blood flow through your arteries, which can cause complications, such as:

Chest pain. If the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary arteries) are affected, you might have chest pain (angina) and other symptoms of coronary artery disease.

Heart attack. If plaques tear or rupture, a blood clot can form at the plaque-rupture site — blocking the flow of blood or breaking free and plugging an artery downstream. If blood flow to part of your heart stops, you'll have a heart attack.

Stroke. Similar to a heart attack, a stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to part of your brain.”

That’s right: High cholesterol can actually lead to conditions that kill you. You need to be aware of your cholesterol levels and keep them in a healthy range.

In addition, did you know that a recent study found that there’s a link between cholesterol (and overall heart health) and Alzheimer’s disease? Medical News Today reports, “Recently, researchers from Boston University investigated the relationship between AD and vascular measures using longitudinal data. They found that low HDL cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, and high glucose levels in the blood from age 35 are linked to AD later in life.”

In other words, high cholesterol is not only a risk factor for heart disease and various other health conditions, it also puts you at greater risk of dementia, too. Even if you feel fine, you should monitor your cholesterol levels to ensure they fall within a healthy or safe range.

1. Take cholesterol lowering medications

Many people know about cholesterol medications such as Lipitor, Crestor, and Livalo. But did you know there’s a new cholesterol injection product on the market? It’s called Repatha and it’s a very simple way to deal with your cholesterol.

Repatha (Evolocumab) is a human monoclonal antibody and can be used together with a low-fat diet and other cholesterol-lowering medications to reduce levels of unhealthy cholesterol circulating in the blood.

All of the above are examples of prescription medications used to treat high cholesterol and thus to lower your risk of stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease, and more. These medications can help to lower bad cholesterol in conjunction with good lifestyle and diet choices.

For example, some medications work by reducing the amount of cholesterol made by the liver. Lowering “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and raising “good” cholesterol decreases the risk of heart disease. Other types, such as the group of medication known as HMG CoA Reductase Inhibitors or “statins,” work by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and increasing the amount of good cholesterol.

Disclaimer: Only your doctor is authorized to properly recommend a prescription drug plan for you. Discuss your cholesterol concerns with your doctor or another healthcare professional and come up with a plan to determine whether cholesterol lowering drugs are right for you.

2. Change your daily habits and lower your stress levels

Wondering about a few effective ways to reduce your cholesterol? Prevention of high cholesterol is key. You need to make healthy dietary and overall life choices in order to lower your cholesterol or keep it at a healthy level.

Some of the best steps you can take for healthy cholesterol are:

● Eat a diet that’s low in salt but contains lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

● Cook with and eat good fats in moderation, and limit your animal fat intake

Lose excess weight and maintain a healthy frame for your body type, size, and heritage

● If you smoke cigarettes, quit smoking immediately (this is a major risk factor)

● Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day/several days per week

● If you drink alcohol, drink it only in moderation (best to avoid altogether)

● Manage your stress levels by changing your life or finding ways to cope

If you stick to a healthy diet and nourishing habits like the above, your cholesterol should no longer need to be a worry. Still, you should ensure that all your markers of general health are monitored by a doctor. Remaining under professional medical care is an important part of leading a long, healthy life.

3. Replace processed foods

Want more ways to spring clean your cholesterol?

One simple switch lies in replacing processed foods with whole foods. Eating mostly whole foods can actually help to get your cholesterol in check. Avoiding processed and sugary foods is essential, but you can also choose whole foods to make better choices as well. For example, if you’re craving a little dessert, choose berries instead of candies. Your gut will be happy and your heart will be, too.

Think fruits and vegetables, heart-healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, and fatty fish like wild salmon, which has been shown to help improve the health of your blood lipids. If your diet is centered around whole-food versions of all your favorite dishes, this is a big step in the right direction. Make these simple replacements and you’re already well on your way to a healthy relationship with cholesterol.

4. Eat more oats

MSN also recommends eating more oats: “Oats contain a fiber called beta-glucan, which essentially helps remove cholesterol from the body … While adding oats to your breakfast is an obvious dish, these whole grains can be added to a slew of other dishes (even meatloaf!) to help give your diet a beta-glucan boost.”

5. Snack on watermelon

Watermelon is another good choice, according to MSN: “Watermelon is a natural source of lycopene, a carotenoid that, when taken daily in certain doses, may reduce LDL cholesterol levels … eating watermelon is linked to reduced LDL cholesterol and improved HDL cholesterol.”

6. Update your coffee order

NorthShore University HealthSystem also recommends making adjustments to your coffee habit if you want to clean up your cholesterol with a few simple fixes. Cutting out certain add-ins from your coffee order can be a surprisingly simple way to take control of your cholesterol: “Lattes, sweetened or coconut milk smoothies, and other blended drinks can be loaded with flavor – as well as sneaky forms of saturated fat, sugar, and calories. … Ask for low-fat (or nonfat) milk or dairy substitutes (soy or almond milk) instead of cream, whipped cream, or faux-flavored creamers, which are often made with corn syrup solids and hydrogenated oils (trans fats – the worst fat for your heart).”

The combination of all of these choices will make your doctor quite proud of you.

7. Get a blood test to know if you need to lower your cholesterol

One of the best ways to clean up your cholesterol is to be aware of your cholesterol level in the first place. How else will you know whether your cholesterol needs spring cleaning or not?

The CDC states, “Most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years. Some people, such as people who have heart disease or diabetes or who have a family history of high cholesterol, need to get their cholesterol checked more often. Children and adolescents should have their cholesterol checked at least once between ages 9 and 11 and again between ages 17 and 21. Talk to your health care team about your health history and how often you need to have your cholesterol checked.”

During your next checkup, talk to your doctor about getting your cholesterol levels checked and staying on a regular routine for checking it as needed. He or she can recommend the proper blood tests depending on your age, lifestyle, and other risk factors.

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