After a recent doctor's checkup, I received some frightening news...the seemingly bulletproof mentality of my twenties was shattered when I found out I have high cholesterol! While my family doesn't have a history of high cholesterol, there are other factors that may have caused it.
Thankfully, there are some ways that I can fight back, and if you're in the same boat, so can you. Let's look at some of the best ways to help you lower your cholesterol and get your heart the strongest muscle in your body.
When delving into and dealing with a heart-healthy diet and exercise plan, it's first important to realize what exactly we are looking for and are concerned about. The major factors most medical professionals will point out are HDL (high density lipids) and LDL (low density lipids) levels, meaning your cholesterol, and BMI (body mass index), a measure of which can help determine if you're at risk for heart disease. HDL is commonly referred to as "good cholesterol" and LDL is commonly referred to as "bad cholesterol." Because our bodies naturally produce cholesterol, we tend to add to that through what we eat. Mainly, animal fats contain cholesterol: meat, eggs, poultry, etc. However, the type of fats in those meats can affect the HDL and LDL levels. To help reach the positive balance and lower LDLs while boosting HDLs, you need to plan a diet that can become a key ingredient to this healthy lifestyle.
THE 10 FOODS YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY BE EATING
Eating heart-healthy foods that are low in cholesterol and are rich in healthy fats include nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios and other nuts. Fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens are also key in helping to naturally adjust cholesterol levels. Replacing fatty meats like beef with servings of fish not only swaps out the fat contents, but fish oils (you've probably heard of omega-3) can also have a healthy and positive impact on your cholesterol levels. Increasing your fiber intake (hope you like Cheerios!) and the number of whole grains and oats you eat also can have positive affects. What items are counterproductive to healthy cholesterol, you may ask? It's quite simple...avoid fatty foods like burgers and other food that is fried in grease or butter. Swapping out butter for extra virgin olive oil can help too since it contains no cholesterol and plenty of healthy fats.
Beginning to eat correctly is the first step in an active, healthy lifestyle. The next step is to lead an actively active lifestyle as well. Heart and cardiovascular health is vital to keeping cholesterol levels in check the same way a heart healthy diet is. Most fitness experts agree that everyone should be getting no less than 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular activity. You don't have to be a marathon runner here, either. A brisk 35-minute walk is better than nothing.
I recommend that you also incorporate no less than 30 minutes of total body strength training at least three times per week to also condition your cardiovascular system. Seek out a qualified personal trainer at your local fitness facility to help you plan a workout that fits your exercise needs. They will help guide you in the right direction to achieving your fitness goals.
Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement
and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports
Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as
well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University
of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous professional, collegiate
and amateur athletes across many different fields, including
professional and arena football players, Mixed Martial Artists, elite
runners, international soccer players, and more.
Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA, as well as the owner and operator of Funky Fitness PA, a personal training studio, in home personal training and personalized fitness planning service. Ryan's work has been featured across the US and the globe, working with clients in all facets of life. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can check Ryan out on Facebook or follow him on Twitter, or you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.