Changing Your Lifestyle to Lower Your Lipids

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If you have been diagnosed as having high lipid levels, there are several ways you can help get your cholesterol and triglyceride levels back within a healthy range. One inexpensive, yet important, way to do this is through making changes to your lifestyle.

Therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) are any adjustments you can make to your everyday life in order to become healthier. These adjustments are typically the first recommendations made by your healthcare provider in an effort to lower your lipid levels.

If your cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels are very high - or if you suffer from a health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease - your healthcare provider may recommend taking a cholesterol-lowering medication in addition to making changes to your lifestyle.

The National Cholesterol Education Program has made a list of recommendations to help people learn to change their lifestyles so that they will lower their lipids, as well as promote overall good health. These changes include:

  • Losing weight. Being overweight can raise your LDL and lower your HDL. Having this combination can be a recipe for disaster, since it can place you at high risk for developing cardiovascular disease in the future. If you are overweight, even losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can show a modest improvement in your lipid levels. There are plenty of diets and recipes that can help you achieve a healthy weight.
  • Increasing your physical activity. Current recommendations suggest that you should get moderate exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. Studies have suggested that doing this will modestly lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. It’s OK if you are a little out of shape, as studies have shown that even lighter activities – such as brisk walking, yoga, or tai chi – can help keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels healthy. There are a lot sites on the internet out there to help you find an exercise program that is right for you. If you have a chronic medical condition, you should make sure that you speak with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.
  • Modifying your diet. The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet, or TLC diet, is a diet designed by the National Cholesterol Education Program to help lower your lipid levels. Specifically, it is a balanced diet that encourages the consumption of soluble fiber, fruits, and vegetables as well as emphasizes the difference between “good” fats and “bad” fats. No matter which specific diet you decide to follow, make sure that it is a healthy one that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein - and limits your consumption of animal meats, sweets, and foods high in saturated fat or trans fats.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking cigarettes can lower your HDL cholesterol, increase your oxidized LDL levels, and increase your likelihood of developing atherosclerosis – all of which can place you at high risk for developing cardiovascular disease. By quitting smoking, you can improve your lipid levels, as well as lower your risk for other chronic diseases.

Sometimes, however, therapeutic lifestyle changes may not be enough to lower your lipids.

 In these cases, other cholesterol lowering treatments - in addition to therapeutic lifestyle changes - may be needed to help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, The National Institutes of Health: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC. US Department of Health and Human
Services: Accessed: February 16, 2016.

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