Dr. Weil recommends making the following lifestyle and dietary changes in order to lower high cholesterol levels:
Lose weight. Even a modest amount of weight loss can lower cholesterol levels.
Reduce the amount of sugar and flour in your diet. Recent evidence indicates that added sugar – in the form of table sugar (sucrose) or high-fructose corn syrup – is probably a greater contributor to heart disease than is consumption of saturated fat. This suggests that the inflammatory hypothesis may in fact have more validity than the conventional lipid hypothesis, although the debate is far from settled. As a general rule, Dr. Weil advises against consuming foods with added sugars, particularly soft drinks and highly processed snack foods, which can cause rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. The result can be overeating, obesity and heart disease.
Avoid trans-fatty acids. These heart-damaging fats can reduce HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and raise levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The tip-off that trans-fatty acids are present in foods is the listing of “partially hydrogenated oil” on a food’s ingredient list. Trans-fats are found in many brands of margarine and in most heavily processed foods, as well as in snack foods such as chips, crackers and cookies, and in the oils used to cook fast-food French fries, doughnuts and movie popcorn.
Exercise. Daily aerobic exercise can help increase HDL levels.
Don’t smoke. Smoking itself is a risk factor for heart disease. It can also significantly lower HDL cholesterol.
Relax. Emotional stress may prompt the body to release fat into the bloodstream, raising cholesterol levels. Counter stress by practicing daily breathing exercises and other stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery or tai chi.