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Lowering Cholesterol Through Diet & Exercise
I have high cholesterol and would like to avoid taking medication. How can I improve my cholesterol levels naturally through diet and exercise?
It is wonderful that you'd like to implement exercise and good nutrition into your life prior to seeking out the pharmaceutical route of lipid lowering medication. Regular exercise and dietary modification can greatly improve your cholesterol profile and prevent the development of heart disease.
When we talk about improving cholesterol profile, we specifically mean increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and decreasing LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Research has shown that for every 1 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol, there is a 1 percent reduction in the relative risk for developing coronary heart disease (CHD). In addition, studies have shown over and over again that total cholesterol levels can predict future occurrences of CHD.
I have specifically highlighted dietary changes that have been shown to positively influence lipid profiles. Be aware that the type of fat consumed is very important, more so even than the total amount of fat. Therefore, choose your fats carefully by following the guidelines below.
Physical activity is a proven and effective way to improve your lipid profile.
Make sure you discuss your approach with your health care provider and obtain guidance in the appropriate exercise intensity for you individually. In addition, working one-on-one with a registered dietitian or licensed nutritionist can greatly enhance your ability to make these dietary changes. If you are at high risk for coronary heart disease, your doctor may recommend a more aggressive approach in which you combine lifestyle changes with drug intervention to improve your profile more quickly. Good luck!
Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology. She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.