As part of a complete prevention and treatment program for managing your cholesterol and lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke, your doctor may suggest some lifestyle changes. Regardless of whether your plan includes drug therapy, you can do a number of things every day to improve your cholesterol levels and your overall health:
Eat a heart-healthy diet
To lower cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends eating a dietary pattern that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts. You should also limit red meat and sugary foods and beverages. Many diets fit that pattern, including the DASH – short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – eating plan promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and diets suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association. The pattern can be easily adapted based on your cultural and food preferences. Learn more about limiting certain fats in Know Your Fats.
Being physically active is also important to prevent heart disease and stroke. Just 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity done three to four times a week is enough to lower both cholesterol and high blood pressure. Brisk walking, swimming, bicycling or a dance class are examples.
Avoid tobacco smoke
If you smoke, your cholesterol level is one more good reason to quit. And everyone should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Tips for Success
Eating a healthy diet and including exercise in your routine can give you the edge in the fight against heart disease and stroke. Follow your doctor's advice carefully, and if you don't understand something, ask. Let your doctor be your coach in combating heart disease and stroke. It's your health. It's your heart.
This content was last reviewed on 04/21/2014.