September is National Cholesterol Education Month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many people have high cholesterol and must make lifestyle changes in order to reduce their chances of having strokes, heart attacks and other cardiac issues. Knowing you need to lower your cholesterol isn't enough to do so, though. If you're not sure where to start, here are some tips:
What you eat contributes to your good and bad cholesterol levels. Indulging in items that are high in saturated fats can contribute to high cholesterol. To lower your levels, limit your intake of foods like hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, red meat and dairy. While eating these items in smaller quantities is OK, having multiple high-fat items a day can negatively affect your cholesterol levels. If you're not sure how to alter your current diet, consider talking to a nutritionist or asking your doctor for resources on eating to reduce cholesterol.
Many people who have high cholesterol are also overweight. Losing a few pounds can greatly reduce the stress on your entire body and decrease cholesterol levels as well as the risk of heart and other diseases. To help your body be healthier overall, try to exercise for 20 minutes daily. You don't have to start out running ultramarathons to feel and see results. In fact, just going for a brisk walk for 10 minutes several times a day is a great place to begin. Walk your dog, play catch with your grandkids or join a co-ed sports league in your community. There are tons of great classes to try like Pilates, Zumba and yoga that offer fun ways to get active. If you're unsure what physical activities to try, ask your doctor. Many assisted living communities offer classes for seniors who aren't as mobile but still want to get a workout. Chair aerobics, for example, is a great option for those who don't have great balance or who require mobility assistance to walk.
See your doctor
Your cholesterol levels will change as you age and even from month to month based on your lifestyle. This is why it's important to get a blood panel when you see your regular physician. He or she can explain how you have improved your levels or discuss possible causes of heightened cholesterol. Share what efforts you've made to reduce your count, like getting more exercise, eating fewer fatty foods and stopping smoking.
Some people are unable to manage their cholesterol without medication. Certain prescriptions are available for those who need extra assistance. These drugs can decrease the amount of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood while slightly improving your good cholesterol. They do come with side effects and medication interactions, so be sure to discuss any concerns about adding a new prescription to your regimen with the doctor. He or she can also explain ways to combine healthy lifestyle choices with medication to further improve your cholesterol.