If your lipids are not at healthy levels, there are things you can do to improve them–and your health profile. The first step to consider is making changes to your lifestyle. Eating more healthfully and exercising can improve your overall well-being and your heart health. If lifestyle changes are not enough, you may need to work with a healthcare provider to find medication, or a combination of medications, to help reach your lipid goals.
Below are some tips to get you started.
Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy heart. If you’re overweight, losing 10 pounds can lower your LDL-C by as much as eight percent.
- All healthy adults ages 18-65 should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. It sounds like a lot with today’s busy schedules, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is with some small changes. And, the exercise doesn’t have to be that strenuous either. Just walking your dog, mowing your lawn, gardening, walking up stairs instead of taking the elevator, or chasing after your kids (or grandkids) may be enough to get your heart rate up.
- Outside of everyday activities, swimming, cycling, jogging, skiing, jumping rope, aerobic dancing, and many other activities can be healthy for your heart.
- If you’ve been inactive for a long time, are overweight, or have other health problems, make sure you see your doctor before beginning a physical activity program.
You should also try to follow a diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and salt. You don’t have to eliminate these foods from your diet entirely, just have a little less of them. Make reading food labels a habit. You’d be surprised by what’s in some of the food you eat! Here are a few tips:
- Limit foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Instead, try olive oil. If you can keep your saturated fats to a minimum (about seven percent of your diet), studies have shown you can decrease LDL-C by as much as 10 percent.
- Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol like whole milk, shellfish, or “organ” meats, like liver. Replace them with skim milk and salmon. Some studies show this may lower your LDL-C by five percent.
- Cut back on added sugars, like sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Try natural sugars like those found in fruits.
- Finally, you should try to eat less than 2,300 mg (just over one teaspoon) of salt or sodium per day. People with high blood pressure should have less than 1,500 mg per day.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to manage your lipid levels, your doctor may suggest medication. There are many different types of lipid disorders and many drugs to treat them, so make sure you work with your doctor to find that treatment that is right for you. The most commonly used medications to lower cholesterol, called statins, have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by about 30 percent. Through a healthy lifestyle, and the addition of other medications such as fibrates, nicotinic acids, or bile acid resins, you may be able to further reduce your risk for heart disease.
Most lipid medications are extremely safe and have few if any side effects. Here are some basic questions you can ask your doctor to ensure the medication you get prescribed is right for you.
Tips for Talking with Your Doctor about Medication
You and your healthcare provider can work together to weigh the risks and benefits of taking medication and identify the right treatment plan for you. Consider asking your doctor the following questions about medication:
- When and how should I take this medication?
- What are the potential side effects of this medication?
- Are there ways to deal with these side effects?
- How will I know if the medication is working?
- How long will I have to take this medication?
- What should I do if I want to stop taking the medication?