Exercise and Cholesterol: How they work together

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 73.5 million Americans have higher-than-recommended cholesterol levels and less than half are getting treatment to lower those numbers. The health impact that can come from high cholesterol is pretty daunting. Uncontrolled levels can raise your risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • High blood pressure
  • Aortic Aneurysms and more

Treatment for high cholesterol may include a variety of approaches and will vary depending on your specific situation but you may expect your doctor to suggest some combination of:

  • Medications—The most common class of drugs are known as statins, but there are other types your doctor may recommend. Medicine may not be your doctor’s first line of treatment though.
  • Lifestyle changes—You guessed it. Changing what you eat is a big part of controlling cholesterol levels so your first line of defense should be to take in more healthy foods and reduce your intake of high fat and high cholesterol sources. You may also be encouraged to stop smoking and reduce or eliminate alcohol from your lifestyle.
  • Weight control—Even a small change in the numbers on the scale can make a big difference in how your body generates and manages cholesterol. Controlling your weight and keeping it in a range that’s right for you is essential.

Why exercise matters

Exercise can’t be overlooked in your battle to prevent heart disease. Sure, most people would probably prefer to just take their medication and call that enough but your numbers may never get down to a healthy range until you start to move.

Exercise has many benefits for the mind and body from increasing overall energy to boosting your natural supply of endorphins to fight depression. But it’s especially important for your heart health and cholesterol management too. 40 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels and raise good levels when used in conjunction with diet changes and weight loss. The more body fat you burn and the more muscle you build, the better your numbers will be. Not to mention you will build cardiovascular strength (make your heart, lungs and blood vessels stronger) overall. To get the most from your workout, you may consider a genetic metabolism test to find out more about how your body responds to exercise. A genetic test will explore your unique chemical makeup and provide you and your healthcare team with targeted, precise information you can use to create the right exercise plan – no guessing needed.

What kind of exercise is best?

Researchers suggest using a blend of resistance training (like light weights) and cardio (exercises that get you moving and your heart rate up) like walking or swimming. You can choose any activity you like—even gardening makes the list—as long as you are working at it. Your heart rate should be up, and so should your breathing but not so much that you can’t talk or finish a sentence. Also remember to check with your doctor before you start an exercise program—especially if you’ve had a heart attack or have other medical conditions. If you’re given the all clear, then start slowly and build up to longer intervals of exercise. You can do it! One change at a time.

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