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5 ways to lower your cholesterol naturally

Get your blood flowing and heart pumping!

Your doctor told you to keep an eye on your cholesterol. Medication may be an option for some, but there are also natural ways to address high cholesterol. Even If you are taking medicine, doubling up on your healthy efforts by introducing certain lifestyles changes will boost the effectiveness of your treatment and produce faster, heart-saving results. These five lifestyle changes will not only help to improve your cholesterol levels, but your overall well-being and quality of life:

1.Eat heart-healthy foods.

The food you eat has a big impact on your overall cholesterol levels. To help lower it, you'll want to reduce your consumption of saturated fats from animal products like red meat and full-fat dairy. Trans fats are also a culprit of high cholesterol. Often presented on nutrition labels as "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil," trans fats are found in margarine and boxed cookies, cakes, and crackers- bad news for those with a sweet tooth.

As for what you can eat, proteins that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are a good alternative to red meat. Think salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds. You should also increase your soluble fiber intake, as this can help your body to reduce its absorption of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad kind of cholesterol) into the bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found in whole grains, vegetables, and legumes- like oatmeal, quinoa, beans, lentils, berries, carrots, and broccoli.

2. Exercise more.

Not only does exercise get your blood flowing and your heart pumping, but it can also help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the good kind of cholesterol. If you're new to the exercise game, start with low-impact activity like going for a walk or gardening, then work up to more vigorous activity like running, riding your bike (at least 10 miles per hour), swimming laps, or an intense uphill hike. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.

3. Lose weight.

If you're staying true to tips one and two, this will probably come easy! Weight loss is a win-win for cholesterol management, as it increases the beneficial HDL cholesterol and decreases the harmful LDL cholesterol. To push your weight loss into high gear, you can make other lifestyle changes such as cutting out sugary beverages like soda and replacing it with water, moderating your snacking (and choosing healthy snacks!), and incorporating more activity into your daily routine, like walking to the bus stop or biking instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from the grocery store.

4. If you smoke, quit.

Smoking increases your risk of heart disease in more ways than one. The immune cells in smokers are unable to transport good cholesterol to the liver, and can, in turn, result in clogged arteries. Once you quit smoking, these harmful effects will begin to reverse quite rapidly. Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve, and within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is cut in half. So what are you waiting for?

5. Drink alcohol in moderation.

Believe it or not, a moderate level of alcohol consumption may positively affect your cholesterol levels. Moderate alcohol consumption means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. One to two drinks a day increases HDL and reduces the risk of heart disease. It is important to note, while alcohol use at a moderate level is ok, anything more becomes harmful to your health in many other ways, including increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease, and certain cancers.

Please speak with your physician before starting any diet or exercise program.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we'll bring you information about the "Cause of the Month," including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. February is American Heart Month.

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