If you love to indulge in fast food for lunch and are something of a couch potato, you might have high cholesterol. Unhealthy levels of cholesterol increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. One in three adults has high cholesterol, meaning total cholesterol is over 240 milligrams per deciliter. If you have high cholesterol, don't panic -- there are several things you can do to reduce it.
Lay off the junk food, since it is usually high in saturated fat, trans fat, salt and sugar, none of which is good for you. Foods high in fat and sugar also make it more likely you'll gain weight, which is just the opposite of what you want if you are trying to lower your cholesterol. Instead, focus on eating healthier foods such as whole grains, seafood, fruits and vegetables. Opt for foods rich in unsaturated -- not saturated -- fat.
Instead of spending your free time sitting in front of the computer or the TV, do something active. Exercise can help you lower your cholesterol as well as help you lose weight. Pick something that you enjoy so it is easier to stick to it, for example, dancing or talking a walk after dinner. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
If lifestyle changes such as exercising more, eating a healthier diet and not smoking don't help, your doctor may prescribe a medication to get your cholesterol levels where they should be. These include statins, cholesterol absorbing inhibitors, bile-acid-binding resins or a combination of these medications. Because these medications have side effects, it is best if you can improve your cholesterol levels with diet and lifestyle changes.
Not all cholesterol is bad. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, helps get rid of the harmful low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol. Not having enough HDL can be just as bad for you as having too much LDL. You also need a small amount of cholesterol to stay healthy, but your body makes most of this, so don't worry about not getting enough dietary cholesterol.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.