High cholesterol levels are a very common health problem in India. The good news is that you can reduce cholesterol easily through a few changes in your life. Once you understand how to manage your cholesterol, it’s much easier to lower your cholesterol levels without drugs – as in lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is needed for cell membranes and the production of hormones. So, it is produced by your body. The body makes what cholesterol it needs; the more cholesterol that comes from food, the less the body makes. An unhealthy diet may overload the body beyond its ability to regulate its cholesterol levels. High-density lipoproteins (HDL or good cholesterol) sweep the blood of excess fat and cholesterol while low-density lipoproteins (LDL or bad cholesterol) are the bad guys, because they can contribute to the build-up of plaque in arteries, and in turn clog your arteries. Similar to our body,

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III) recommends lifestyle therapies, which include a combination of diet and exercise modifications, in place of drug treatment for patients who fall into an intermediate range of coronary heart disease (CHD) risk.

Combination therapies of diet and exercise are particularly beneficial, as they produce complementary effects on lipid profiles. Diet lowers total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) while exercise increases HDL (good cholesterol), besides helping you lose weight.

Between diet and exercise, let’s first talk about diet tips to lower cholesterol:

Diet: There are many sources of cholesterol in your diet

- All animal food sources contain cholesterol. Whether, its meat, dairy or eggs. The lower fat versions contain less cholesterol, than the high saturated fat animal foods. Don’t stop eating dairy or meat- just eat lower fat versions of them. Eggs have their own health benefits.

- Besides saturated fat, trans fats (hydrogenated oils) in foods are - chips, biscuits, samosas (cause of refrying) are loaded with trans fats.

- To reduce cholesterol levels, incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, “good” unsaturated fats (almonds, walnuts) and soluble-fiber (oatmeal, fruits and dried beans). This will help lower LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol. Omega 3 (also found in eggs, fatty fish, flax seeds) supplements can help you raise HDL cholesterol.

Exercise: Exercise can reduce triglyceride by around 15 percent to 25 percent. The American Heart Association recommend up to 30 minutes of physical activity per day. That does not mean 30 minutes at one stretch- it can be a 3 sessions of 10 minutes. Studies have shown that if exercise is divided up in intervals throughout the day, for instance, two 15 minute exercise sessions the healthy benefits would be same. Dr. Wood, at Stanford University, observed that benefits of exercise started almost immediately and just a couple of months of exercise showed significant good effects. We don’t recommend walking, since it’s not active enough. Instead try light jogging or skipping. Active cardio exercises like running, cycling, swimming, etc, and weight training increase the rate of improving cholesterol levels. Try any of these active sports.

There are lots of tips here to lower cholesterol. Start with making one change, and then add other changes gradually. And you don’t need drugs to lower cholesterol levels. These simple lifestyle changes can help you reduce cholesterol levels, be healthier and fitter. If you need help to control cholesterol with diet & exercise, get some.