One Step Closer to a Healthy Wellthy Journey
Let me tell you the story of one of my clients and her journey towards bettering her health.
Maria was recently prescribed medicine to lower her cholesterol at an annual physical. She felt helpless, sad and as if this was something that she was destined to get because of genetics and age. Maria was 56 years old, overweight by 30 pounds, lacking physical activity and often eating out—due purely to convenience—because of her busy schedule as a nurse. By pure convenience, I mean eating fast foods frequently.
Her life was about to change because before she filled her prescription, she decided to take a new step on her journey by calling a personal trainer.
That is where I came in, as a certified trainer with over a decade of experience. She trusted me and I trusted her; we had a pact to do whatever we could to try to reverse her bad cholesterol. Through eight months of hard work, exercising and a clean diet, we did just this. She made changes that have bettered her lifestyle, both mentally and physically.
Below, I’ll share Maria’s plan and regardless of your cholesterol level, you can adopt these changes to better your health and live the very best life you deserve!
Eat Healthy Foods for Your Heart
Despite the unhealthy food choices you may have made in the past, making changes starting today can improve your health and reverse the damage that may have been caused.
Choose healthy fats for your heart. Maria lowered her meat intake dramatically and went from a typical dinner of steak and potatoes to a brown rice and chicken meal. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and dairy products, increase your overall cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, aka the “bad” cholesterol. A good guideline is that you should monitor your diet and get less than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fat.
Choose higher grade meats, low-fat dairy, and monounsaturated fats—found in olive and canola oils—for healthier options.
Cut out all trans-fat. I think a key component in Maria’s transformation is that she eliminated all trans-fat. Trans fats affect cholesterol levels by increasing the “bad” cholesterol and lowering the “good” cholesterol. This is not a good combination. In fact, this bad combination heightens the risk of heart attacks. Trans fats can be found in fried foods and many processed foods. Be sure to read the ingredient list and avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils.
Add foods high in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. They have other heart benefits, such as helping to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol along with reducing blood pressure. Some types of fish such as salmon and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts and almonds.
Another important way to better your cholesterol is to increase soluble fiber. There are two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble. They both have heart-health benefits, but soluble fiber also helps lower your LDL levels.
You can add soluble fiber to your diet by eating oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, and vegetables. Maria did this and she was able to reap the benefits by avoiding medicine along with losing weight! Small changes add up to make a big difference!
Exercise can improve cholesterol by volumes. Moderate physical activity, where you are working up a good sweat, can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. With your doctor’s approval, build up to at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Maria exercised 3 days a week for an hour and 4 days a week for 30 minutes because that is what worked for her. Find what works best for you. Every fitness minute counts—so even just adding 20 minutes a day can transform your health!
Ditch Bad Habits Like Smoking
While Maria was a non-smoker, my experience as a trainer over the years has shown that those who smoke may have worse cholesterol levels than those who don’t.
If you smoke, make a huge change for the good starting today and stop! Quitting may better your HDL cholesterol levels. The benefits do not stop there. Within just twenty minutes of stopping, your blood pressure and heart rate drop. Within one year, your risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker. And the positive results do not stop there because in 15 years, your risk of heart disease is like someone who never smoked.
Drop Some Pounds
If you are overweight by just several pounds, this can be a factor in causing high cholesterol. Don’t underestimate the benefits of weight loss. Dropping as little as 5 to 10 percent of your weight can better cholesterol levels. Maria worked hard and ended up losing 38 pounds and transforming her life in the process!
To do so, begin by analyzing your eating habits and daily routine. Look at what has held you back from weight loss in the past and create ways to overcome those obstacles.
Remember: every positive change you make will greatly better your life. If you find yourself eating when you are stressed, get up and move around. Find a way to take your mind off food and on something else.
Maria would go for a walk and then have a tall glass of water when she returned. Most of the time she forgot she was even thinking of food before. The power of the mind is incredible!
The results of Maria’s changes were astounding. She ended up becoming an avid runner. Her confidence dramatically increased. She felt over a decade younger than what she was. She became very close and near and dear to me as a trainer. Maria made a choice to transform her life and she stuck with it. What’s most amazing—she never ended up needing any medicine to lower her cholesterol because she did it all naturally!
With all this information, know that you can make changes to improve your cholesterol through diet and exercise. Most of all, keep your head up and believe just as Maria did. Where there is a will, there is usually a way!