Christmas is round the corner and holiday season often witnesses unhealthy changes in our food habits. A study by Danish researchers observed that around 9 out of 10 people had high levels of LDL or low-density lipoprotein which is also known as “bad” cholesterol during the first week of January. Back-to-back Christmas and New Year binge could impact health and raise risk of heart and liver diseases if we are not careful. Taking measures to keep cholesterol in check before the festive binge begins could help one have a better control over health. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, for example, the first change could be adding more physical activities to your routine, adding a lot of fibre and protein to your diet and keeping alcohol intake in check. (Also read: Looking out for an indulgent Christmas, New Year dessert? Try Gianduja Mousse)
“Maintaining a healthy cholesterol level helps to prevent heart and liver diseases. A person with high LDL cholesterol can use a combination of diet and habit changes to lower their LDL cholesterol to a healthy level over time. Minute lifestyle changes can enhance your health. The body needs some cholesterol to function normally. However, too much cholesterol – especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL) increases the risk and chances of cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks and strokes and block your arteries, says Kanika Malhotra, Nutritionist and Weight Loss specialist, Founder of Health Astronomy.
People concerned about their cholesterol can adopt few healthy lifestyle changes as mentioned below to cut their cholesterol levels before Christmas. Kanika Malhotra offers tips.
1. Become more active
Physical activity exercises the heart, reducing the risk of heart disease. It can also help the body more effectively remove cholesterol from the blood, steadily lowering bad cholesterol. People who are not active can start slowly. Even a slight increase in physical activity can improve health, and may make it easier to work up to more exercise.
2. Add fibre to your daily diet
Fiber-rich foods are healthy for the heart and may help manage cholesterol levels. Fibre in the diet reduces the absorption of cholesterol and bile acids that the liver uses to make cholesterol. Foods naturally high in fibre include oatmeal, chia seeds, psyllium husk (Isabgol), beans such as lentils, legumes and beans, whole grains, apples, avocado, oranges and broken wheat (dalia).
3. Avoid trans fats
You should completely avoid trans fats and saturated fats such as those found in animal products, including processed meats (sausage and salami), high fat red meats (mutton), high-fat dairy products such as cheese and butter.
4. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level over a period of a week itself. Within 1 hour of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate start improving. Within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve and help the HDL to lower down.
5. Moderate alcohol consumption
Before the festive season begins, start decreasing your alcohol consumption. Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation even during the festive season. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day; for women of all ages and men older than age 60 – up to two drinks a day is maximum. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and strokes.