Since more than 42 million older adults have at least one type of heart disease, combating high cholesterol is one of the best things you can do to benefit your health as you age. While medications do help lower cholesterol, there are certain negative side effects of cholesterol medication that can be uncomfortable and even risky for seniors.
That’s why making simple lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet filled with cholesterol-lowering foods, is a key step in getting your cholesterol back to a healthy level.
Reaching a Healthy Cholesterol Level
Although many of us know the importance of keeping our cholesterol at a healthy level, some find it difficult to do so. That’s because there are several risk factors for high cholesterol that are beyond anyone’s control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of them is age. As we age, our cholesterol levels rise, making us that much more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease and experience a heart attack or stroke. Genetics can also increase your risk, so if heart disease or high cholesterol runs in your family, it’s recommended that you get your cholesterol levels checked often. A third uncontrollable risk factor is your gender. While both men and women can have high cholesterol, women’s risk greatly increases postmenopause.
Despite these uncontrollable factors, there are plenty of ways you can control your cholesterol. Medications called statins are most commonly prescribed to people with consistently high cholesterol. Before agreeing to a daily pill regimen, become aware of the possible negative side effects of cholesterol medication, including, according to Mayo Clinic, muscle pain, liver damage, type 2 diabetes and even memory loss.
Your risk of experiencing these dangerous side effects of cholesterol medication increases with age, so speak with your doctor before taking statins. Should you experience any of these side effects after going on medication, your doctor can help you form an alternative treatment plan and discuss the lifestyle changes you can make that will naturally lower your cholesterol.
Top Cholesterol-Lowering Foods
Pills aren’t the only solution for keeping cholesterol under control. When it comes to combating high cholesterol, consuming a healthy diet and exercising regularly are essential. Just by making these simple lifestyle changes, not only will you lower your cholesterol, but you’ll also boost your overall health.
While the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to be one of the best heart-healthy diets, there are certain cholesterol-lowering foods and snacks that will really kick-start your health and lower your risk of heart disease.
To reach a healthy cholesterol level, try incorporating these cholesterol-lowering foods into your regular diet:
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which lowers the amount of “bad” cholesterol in your body. Other foods that contain this cholesterol-lowering fiber are apples, barley, prunes, pears and kidney beans. Aim to consume between five and 10 grams of soluble fiber a day.
- Fish: While fish doesn’t directly lower your cholesterol, it is one of the most heart-healthy foods out there as it lowers your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. To get the most benefits, eat at least two servings of the following fish a week: mackerel, sardines, lake trout, tuna and salmon.
- Tree Nuts: Tree nuts contain mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which improve cholesterol levels and promote healthy blood vessels. The top heart-healthy nuts are almonds, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and pistachio nuts. Tree nuts are high in calories, however, so a handful will be enough to boost your heart health without consuming too many calories.
- Avocados: Similarly to tree nuts, avocados also contain monounsaturated fatty acids. A recent study found that avocados were especially effective in lowering cholesterol in those who were overweight and obese, which are two big risk factors of heart disease. Luckily, there are plenty of recipes featuring this superfood that will help you eat the recommended daily avocado and reach a healthy cholesterol level.
- Olive Oil: Instead of cooking with butter, use olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil. You can also use these oils when sauteing vegetables, making a marinade or even mixing it with vinegar to use as a salad dressing. Be careful not to use more than the recommended amount of 2 tablespoons a day, however, since olive oil is high in calories.
Healthy Eating, Healthy Aging
Eating a healthy diet is essential for promoting not only your heart health, but also your overall well-being. Just by adding these cholesterol-lowering foods into your diet, you won't believe how much more energy you'll have and how much better you’ll feel!
While a healthy diet is key for aging well, it is only the first step, however. With a medical alert device from Medical Guardian, you will feel much more at ease knowing that you have access to instant help should you experience a heart attack, stroke or any other emergency.