It’s easy to associate high cholesterol with age. The more years you spend on this earth, the more time your bad habits have to cause damage to your body, right? But recent studies have actually shown that high cholesterol is prevalent not just among adults, but teenagers and even children. With those numbers in mind, it’s quite possible for young adults to have high cholesterol without realizing it. Teenagers turn into young adults, after all. And since doctors don’t tend to look for high cholesterol in younger individuals, it can easily go untreated for years. That is a tragedy, because the longer you wait to get a handle on your cholesterol, the harder it will be. That happens for two reasons A) your cholesterol will simply be higher, and so it has further to drop and B) You are even more accustomed to the habits that caused the issue. So, here is what to do if you are young with high cholesterol, so you can manage the situation early.
Drink no more, and no less, than this
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve cholesterol levels, but don’t take that information as an excuse to hit the bottle. Research has found that exactly one drink per day for women can improve cholesterol levels—no less, but no more. The ethanol in alcohol raises high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) otherwise known as the good cholesterol.
Monitor your trans fats
These not only raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (aka your bad cholesterol) but they also lower your HDL. These are found in fried foods, as well as many packaged foods. Bare in mind that a food can contain 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving and legally don the label “free of trans fats” so read the nutrition labels carefully.
Quitting smoking can improve your HLD cholesterol levels rapidly, says one study. The results seem to be consistent regardless of how heavy a smoker the individual was, or of other lifestyle choices like diet and exercise.
Try red yeast rice
Red yeast is a supplement that comes from rice but can be gentler on some users than prescription medications used to lower LDL cholesterol. Red yeast naturally contains something called monacolin K, which pharmacists add to cholesterol medication, as well as unsaturated fatty acids, which are also good for cholesterol levels.
Try whey protein
Even if you aren’t a bodybuilder, you can still try whey protein shakes. Whey protein can help suppress your appetite, meaning you’ll naturally eat fewer saturated fats, and has been shown to help control cholesterol levels.
Lose those last ten pounds
Reducing your weight by five to ten percent can improve your cholesterol. Studies have found this to be true for participants, regardless of their starting weight. Even if you end up putting some of the weight back on, the benefits to your health (including improved cholesterol) can remain for a long time.
Cut back on red meat
Red meat—which includes beef, pork, and lamb—is higher in saturated fat than other animal proteins like chicken or fish. The more saturated fat you consume, the more cholesterol your body can produce. Limit your red meat consumption to once a week, and keep that serving size to six ounces.
Switch to olive oil
Cook with olive oil and canola oil instead of coconut or palm oil. While coconut oil does have its health benefits, it should be off the table for those with high cholesterol. Olive and canola oil, however, have high levels of monounsaturated fat, which can boost your cholesterol.
Try low-fat dairy
Most of the cholesterol we consume comes from animal products, and this extends to dairy. But high-fat dairy items, like cheddar cheese, brie cheese, and most hard cheeses, are the biggest culprits. Switch to low-fat cheese, milk and other dairy products to lower your cholesterol.
Eat more fish
Salmon, mackerel, tuna, halibut, and cod are all very high in omega-3 fatty acids, which raise your good cholesterol and don’t affect your bad cholesterol. Eating more fish naturally means you’re eating less red meat, too.
Take an omega-3 supplement
If you do not like eating fish you can take an omega-3 supplement and see many of the same benefits. That being said, our body more readily absorbs the nutrients we get from food.
Niacin is a vitamin B and raises your good cholesterol. Keep in mind it must be prescribed by a doctor because certain individuals, like diabetics or those with high blood sugar, shouldn’t take it.
Add soluble fiber
Soluble fiber, which is found in things like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, has the ability to bind with bad cholesterol in your system and flush it out of your body. This can lower bad cholesterol substantially. Soluble fiber can also fill you up on fewer calories, which can help you lose that five to ten percent body fat.
I know; you hear it all of the time. But you do need to exercise regularly, even if you are bikini-ready. Studies have found that exercise boosts the production of certain enzymes that work to move cholesterol through the body, as well as clear it out of the body.
Check your cholesterol regularly
If you do know that you have high cholesterol, you need to have it checked frequently. While most healthy individuals age 20 and up can have their cholesterol checked every five years, that will increase significantly if you have high cholesterol. Your doctor can give you a checkup plan, and it’s important that you stick to it.