3 Ways to Control Your Cholesterol

High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is naturally occurring and plays an important role in the human body. However, if too much cholesterol is in the blood stream, it starts to build up on the walls of your blood vessels. Over time, this buildup narrows or blocks the blood flow to other parts of the body, including the heart.

There are two types of cholesterol:

  • High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is also known as “good” cholesterol. HDL absorbs harmful forms of cholesterol and carries them to the liver to be flushed from the body. High amounts of HDL can help lower risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol causes eventual buildup within the blood vessels. Without enough HDL present and flushing LDL out through the liver, LDL build up can cause heart attack and stroke.

In short, the “good” helps remove the “bad”.

Am I at risk?

As we age, our bodies work harder to prevent the buildup of cholesterol, leading to an increased risk of high cholesterol. Adults without existing heart disease, diabetes, or family history of high cholesterol should have a preventative screening every 4 to 6 years, but those who are at higher risk should be checked more frequently.

Some risk factors are uncontrollable such as:

  • Family history
  • Aging
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia

But other risk factors might be more within control. Here are three ways you can help prevent high cholesterol.

1. Healthier eating

According to the American Heart Association, reducing the amount of saturated and trans fats consumed can help reduce cholesterol. This means limiting red meats, processed foods, and foods or beverages high in sodium or sugar.

Adding foods rich in soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids to the diet can help clear the body of cholesterol. These are foods such as: oats, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fatty fish (salmon, tuna, halibut, other seafoods including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils).

These foods tend to satisfy as omega-3 fats within the beans, nuts, and fish work to reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and improve heart health. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. 

2. Regular activity

In addition to healthy foods, our bodies also need consistent physical movement. Since increasing your daily movement and eating a healthy diet can help maintain a healthy weight, it is obvious why doctors recommend both to manage cholesterol levels. Excess body fat can slow the body’s ability to remove the “bad” cholesterol from the bloodstream. For adults, here’s what the AHA recommends:

  • "Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.
  • Add moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) on at least two days per week.
  • Spend less time sitting. Even light-intensity activity can offset some of the risks of being sedentary.
  • Gain even more benefits by being active at least 300 minutes (5 hours) per week.
  • Increase amount and intensity gradually over time"

There are many ways to get moving! Learn more about starting your fitness journey here.

3. Quit smoking and limit alcohol

Smoking damages blood vessels and hardens the arteries by decreasing HDL, while consuming too much alcohol can raise LDL levels. To work towards lowering your cholesterol, the CDC recommends quitting smoking altogether. The CDC also recommends limiting your alcohol to one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males.

You aren't alone...we're here to help!

If you know you're at risk or want to learn more about your risk of developing high cholesterol, your Healthcare Highways Health Plan may cover care coordination services to help qualified members.

If you are a health plan member and would like to learn more about care coordination benefits, call us! Our Customer Experience Advocates team will help you find out if you qualify for this no-cost personalized service and connect you with the care you need. Check your Healthcare Highways Health Plan ID card for your Customer Experience Advocate team's phone number, or reach out onlineWe'll take it from there!