High cholesterol. It’s a condition affecting millions of Americans and one of the biggest contributors to heart attack. It’s also surprisingly easy to get a handle on.
To be clear, cholesterol is not in and of itself a bad thing. You need it. Your body makes it. Some of it is even good for you. It becomes a problem, however, when you take on too many habits that take it too high.
Eating sugary foods, for example, is known to contribute to “bad” LDL cholesterol. High sugar foods boost the number of dense little pieces of cholesterol circulating in your blood, and that can accumulate on your arteries, much like coffee grinds in sink pipes.
This “plaque” leads to atherosclerosis and increased blood pressure, reduced circulation, and inflammation.
But once it appears, this plaque is not necessarily permanent. There are little things you can do to “clean your pipes.” Here are some things you can do without even thinking about it.
Change your breakfast: Building a breakfast around oatmeal, berries, and yogurt can do wonders for your cholesterol levels. One study found that eating one cooked cup of oatmeal each day, topped with a half cup of berries, cut LDL by 10% in a month.
Add a cup of plain probiotic yogurt (either at breakfast or as a mid-morning snack) and those numbers could drop another 9% over two months.
Switch up snacks: Raw veggies could be the perfect snack to help drop cholesterol levels. According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, eating three cups of veggies per day (with one cup being raw) could cut plaque buildup up to 38%.
Most veggies feature compounds that coat LDL cholesterol and make it too slippery to stick to artery walls. And like oatmeal and berries, most veggies are high in fiber—a compound known to lower LDL.
Spend more time relaxing: Although exercise can offer major cuts to cholesterol, relaxing is no slouch, either. Finding time each day to relax and listen to music, meditate, or read may cut the risk of LDL worsening by as much as half.
Cortisol (one of your stress hormones) can boost LDL, regardless of diet. So, taking some time to relax can help enhance the effects of your other efforts.
Try these simple adjustments to help reduce cholesterol levels to keep them in check.