If you eat when you’re bored or frustrated, take a walk instead.
If you pick up fast food for lunch every day, pack something healthier from home.
If you’re sitting in front of the television, try munching on carrot sticks instead of potato chips as you watch. Take time and enjoy rather than “devouring” your food. Don’t eat mindlessly.
And look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
Take stock of what you currently eat and your physical activity level and slowly work in changes.
2. Eat heart-healthy foods
Even if you have years of unhealthy eating under your belt, making a few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health.
Choose healthier fats. Saturated fats, found in red meat and dairy products, raise your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.
As a general rule, you should get less than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat.
Instead, choose leaner cuts of meat, low-fat dairy and monounsaturated fats — found in olive, peanut and canola oils — for a healthier option.
Eliminate trans fats. Trans fat can be found in fried foods and many commercial baked products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes.
But don’t rely on packages that are labeled “trans fat-free.” In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, it can be labeled “trans fat-free.” Even though those amounts seem small, they can add up quickly if you eat a lot of foods that have a small amount of trans fat in them. Instead, read the ingredients list. You can tell if a food has trans fat in it if it contains partially hydrogenated oil.
Limit the cholesterol in your food. Aim for no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day — less than 200 mg if you have heart disease or diabetes. The most concentrated sources of cholesterol include organ meats, egg yolks and whole milk products.
Use lean cuts of meat, egg substitutes and skim milk instead.
Select whole grains. Various nutrients found in whole grains promote heart health. Choose whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour and brown rice.
Stock up on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. Snack on seasonal fruits. Experiment with veggie-based casseroles, soups and stir-fries. If you prefer dried fruit to fresh fruit, limit yourself to no more than a handful (about an ounce or two). Dried fruit tends to have more calories than does fresh fruit.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Some types of fish — such as salmon, mackerel and herring — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds.
3. Exercise on most days of the week
Whether you’re overweight or not, exercise can reduce cholesterol. Better yet, moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. With your doctor’s OK, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Just be sure that you can keep up the changes you decide to make. Consider:
Taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour
Riding your bike to work
Playing a favorite sport
To stay motivated, find an exercise buddy or join an exercise group. And remember, any activity is helpful. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a few situps while watching television can make a difference