A Jacaranda FM listener wanted to know what lifestyle changes may help to manage high cholesterol.

Answer:
One could easily achieve more efficient management of high cholesterol with a couple of simple lifestyle changes. Most of these changes have to do with changes in behaviours which have become ingraned habits. Some changes are easier and quicker to implement than others, but the key is to remember that Rome was not built in a day. High cholesterol is not something that happens overnight, it develops slowly over many years. So be realistic in your expectations as you will unlikely see or experience instant results. Just persist because better health also takes time to develop, so most of the benefits may only start to show or be experienced well after 4 to 6 weeks of consistent implementation.

Tips
– Don’t try to implement all the changes in one go, rather go step by step from one week to the next.
– Going it alone can be very daunting, it may be easier if you make these changes together with your spouse, partner or a friend.

Lifestyle changes to implement
1) Take regular exercise – 30 minutes moderate cardiovascular excercize at least 3 to 4 times per week
2) Eat a balanced diet
– Fresh vegetables and fruit daily (veg should form the bulk of your diet – the dark green & orange/yellow ones!)
– Eat whole grains with high fibre content daily, e.g. oats, whole wheat bread, whole fruits, etc.
– Red meat (lean cuts / low fat) in moderation only 2 to 3 days a week
– Use good quality unsaturated fats like olive oil (don’t cook with olive oil) and coconut oil
– Eat a hand full of raw, unsalted nuts daily (not peanuts or pistachios).
– Avoid processed foods
– Avoid refined flour products (white flour breads, biscuits, cakes, etc)
– Avoid luxuries that are high in sugar – sweets, chocolates etc.
– Avoid fast & junk foods at all costs, especially in the first couple of weeks, as they’re looooaded with salt, bad/damaged fats and refined sugars
3) Drink only water. Avoid fizzy drinks, processed and artificial fruit juices, etc. Replace coffee & tea with rooibos tea or green tea (without sugar or milk).
4) Quit smoking tobacco
5) Reduce alcohol intake – 1 light alcoholic beverage per day MAY be beneficial to general heart health but it does not mean you MUST drink alcohol
6) Lose weight if necessary