There are many factors that can put you at risk for developing high cholesterol and triglycerides. Although there are many of them you have some control over, there are some risk factors you may not be able to control, such as your age. Having persistently high, untreated lipid levels over time can place you at risk for cardiovascular disease down the road – which could range from developing peripheral vascular disease to having a heart attack. If you have one or more risk factors for developing high LDL or triglycerides, here are some things you can do now to help reduce your risk – and improve your overall health.
Get your cholesterol checked.
Although it’s a no-brainer, knowing your numbers can help you to assess whether or not you have borderline or high lipids. Having high cholesterol or triglycerides does not produce any symptoms, so the first time someone is aware of their high cholesterol is usually through routine testing. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, individuals 20 years of age and above should have their cholesterol levels routinely checked.
Know your family history.
Although there have been a few genes identified that are related to inherited high cholesterol levels, asking questions regarding your parents’ health, or the health of your siblings, can give you a good idea of whether or not high lipid levels may run in your family. Do you have a brother just diagnosed with high cholesterol? Did your mother have heart disease at an early age? Although there is nothing you can really do to prevent genetic factors towards high lipid levels, knowing your family’s medical history can make you more aware that it may develop later on in life.
Convert to a healthier diet.
Your diet can also place you at risk for having high lipid levels – especially if you consume foods high in saturated fats and trans fats. Foods containing saturated fats include red meats and animal products, whereas trans fats can be found in foods such as chips, cookies, cakes, and fried foods. Additionally, a diet high in refined carbohydrates can also cause your triglyceride levels to become elevated. By lowering the amount of saturated fats and refined sugars in your diet – and completely limiting your intake of trans fats – you can help keep your cholesterol levels – and your heart - healthy.
Address your bad habits.
While you’re addressing your diet, you should also look at other aspects of your lifestyle that could elevate your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Are you a smoker? Are you lacking sleep or not effectively managing stress in your everyday life? All of these factors could increase your lipid levels – especially your LDL cholesterol. Addressing some of these unhealthy lifestyle habits can help you to get your lipids within a healthy range, and improve your overall health.
Start exercising regularly.
Exercise is a great way to improve agility and mood, but it can also help you to keep your cholesterol levels in check. You don’t have to be a fitness trainer to see the benefits of exercise – as long as your moving, you are helping to reduce your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. Low impact exercises, such as Tai Chi and yoga, have also shown some benefit in lowering high cholesterol levels in a few studies. Exercise has not only been shown to modestly raise HDL and lower LDL, it can also help you to lose excess weight – another factor that can raise your risk of having high cholesterol.
Address your other health conditions.
Other health conditions can also affect your lipid levels, elevating them and increasing your risk for heart disease. These conditions, which include diabetes, hypothyroidism, some forms of liver disease and chronic renal failure, can cause your LDL and triglycerides to increase and your HDL to decrease. Working with your healthcare provider to keep these conditions under good control can help you to control your lipid levels, too.
Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults , July 2004, The National Institutes of Heath: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.