If you or a senior you are the caregiver for has high cholesterol, you aren’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 102 million adults in this country have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL. This elevated level is considered unhealthy. Of them, 35 million have cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, increasing their risk for heart disease and stroke.

To help manage it, the doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering drug called a statin. For many people, the side effects of this class of drugs are tough to manage. They include skin rash, muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea, sleep problems, and an inflamed liver.

While statin concerns can be troublesome, it’s important to know how dangerous high cholesterol can be. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among older adults, and stroke is a leading cause of disability. High cholesterol increases the chances for both.

Is it possible to lower your cholesterol without taking medication?

For some adults, the answer is yes. Lifestyle plays a key role.

Using Diet and Exercise to Lower Cholesterol

A heart-healthy diet combined with exercise might lower your cholesterol without medication like a statin. But do you know what foods make up a heart-smart diet? Or what forms of exercise are senior-friendly?

Researchers are finding new evidence every year that the lifestyle of people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea might be a solution. Residents of these areas tend to enjoy longer lives with fewer incidences of heart disease, dementia, and some types of autoimmune diseases.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

If you love the tastes of Spain, Italy, and Greece, you’re in luck. Olives, nuts, garlic, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocados form the backbone of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Residents consume fewer servings of meat and greater amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, fish, and lean protein.

People that live along the Mediterranean Sea also adhere to a lifestyle that promotes natural forms of exercise. Instead of working out in a fitness club, they swim, garden, walk their dog, and more. Instead of driving, many bike or walk to work. The sedentary lifestyle common in Western cultures is rare here.

What else can you do to maintain healthy cholesterol?

It is also important to note there are few smokers in Mediterranean zones. Despite the proven risks, the CDC estimates that 13% of the US population are smokers. Not only does smoking increase your risk for many forms of cancer, it also impacts cholesterol.

Smoking increases bad cholesterol (HDL) and decreases good cholesterol (LDL). If you are a smoker, it’s just one more reason to quit. Talk with your physician for advice on which smoking cessation programs have the best outcomes.

Live Well at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Whether you are searching for independent living, assisted living, or memory care, well-balanced meals and senior-friendly fitness activities are part of daily life. Call the community nearest you to learn more!