Improving your cholesterol levels doesn’t necessarily mean adding a new medication to the mix. Diet and lifestyle changes can often make a difference. You may be surprised to find that a few things you’re already doing – or could be doing – to help your arthritis can lower your cholesterol level as well.
Here are 10 things to try:
1. Cut the fat. Limit your consumption of foods such as organ meats; processed meats, including hot dogs, bologna and sausage; whole milk and ice cream; fried foods; butter, shortening and lard.
2. Get your fill of fiber. Soluble fiber – the kind found in food such as oatmeal, apples, kidney beans, peaches, prunes, bananas and broccoli – reduces cholesterol absorption from the intestines. Strive to get 10 or more grams a day – the amount in a couple of bowls of oatmeal or a few bananas or peaches.
3. Go a little nutty. Studies show that walnuts and almonds can have a significant effect on LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) levels. Two ounces (approximately a handful) daily is about what it takes.
4. Select seafood. The same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish that ease arthritis inflammation can have a cholesterol-lowering effect as well. Try to eat at least two servings of fish each week. Mackerel, herring, salmon and albacore tuna are all good sources of omega-3s.
5. Change your oil. Change your regular cooking oil to olive oil, and you’ll lower your LDL cholesterol without affecting your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. About two tablespoons daily is what you’ll need to reap the benefits. A bonus: You may also feel improvement in arthritis inflammation.
6. Look for fortified foods. Plant substances called sterols or stanols are known to block the absorption of cholesterol. A number of products fortified with these substances have hit the supermarket in recent years. Look for them in orange juice, margarine and yogurt.
7. Drop a few pounds. One of the best tactics for reducing strain on your arthritic joints is also one of the best for reducing cholesterol. Losing just five or 10 pounds often makes a difference – for both.
8. Get going. Staying active can help your cholesterol levels, even if you don’t need to lose weight. Moderate physical activity can raise HDL cholesterol.
9. Give up the cigarettes. If you smoke, stopping can increase your HDL cholesterol level.
10. Speak to your doctor. If diet and lifestyle changes aren’t enough, of course, speak to your doctor. He or she may have other advice, including the possibility of adding cholesterol-lowering medication to your daily regimen.