Good health is all about balance, and that's true for your cholesterol, too. Low-density lipoprotein -- the "bad" cholesterol -- clogs your arteries and puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke. High-density lipoprotein -- the "good" cholesterol -- ferries bad cholesterol out of your arteries to your liver for disposal. In order to balance your LDL and HDL, you'll need to make some lifestyle changes. Substituting some of the less healthy foods in your diet with nutritious alternatives and increasing your activity level will go a long way toward improving your cholesterol levels.
Throw your pack of cigarettes in the dumpster and don't look back. Along with all the other hazards of tobacco use, smoking damages the lining of your artery walls. Smooth, healthy artery walls let fat float by, but tiny nooks and crevices collect fatty deposits putting you at risk for coronary artery disease. Additionally, smoking may deplete your levels of HDL cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Lose weight, then maintain a healthy weight for life. Being obese, with a body mass index over 30, significantly increases your risk of high LDL and total cholesterol. Losing weight can help decrease these levels and raise your levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. Work with your physician to devise a practical and sustainable weight loss plan that will fit your lifestyle.
Eat a well-balanced diet. Some foods including fruits, vegetables and whole-grains are high in fiber and other nutrients that naturally lower your bad cholesterol. Replace sugary cereal at breakfast with oatmeal topped with berries. Make a sandwich on whole-wheat bread for lunch, and cook whole-grain pasta mixed with sauteed vegetables for dinner.
Exercise for 30 to 60 minutes per day. Regular exercise can help you balance your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. You don't have to join the gym. Walking, cycling and even gardening all count as exercise.
Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day. There is some evidence to suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may improve your HDL levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, the evidence isn't strong enough to make it worthwhile for a teetotaler to start boozing.
Reduce your cholesterol intake to below 300 milligrams per day -- or below 200 milligrams if you have a history of heart disease. Animal products including eggs, whole milk and meat are particularly high in cholesterol. Eat lean cuts of meat, egg whites and low-fat dairy instead.
Replace trans and saturated fats with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Trans and saturated fats increase LDL levels and your total cholesterol. Additionally, trans fats lower your HDL levels. Replace margarine with healthier alternatives including canola, olive or peanut oil. Avoid the trans and saturated fats found in many processed baked goods including cakes, cookies and crackers.
Manage medical conditions with the help of your physician. Even if your lifestyle is the picture of health, some conditions may predispose you to high cholesterol. Conditions that put you at risk for hyperlipidemia include diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pregnancy and kidney disease. Additionally, some medications may increase your bad cholesterol including hormonal birth control pills, water pills and some antidepressants. In addition to improving your lifestyle, you may need to take medication to balance your cholesterol.
Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.