If you think smoking only damages your lungs, think again. It also lowers your good cholesterol (HDL) levels and increases the chances of fatty deposits building up inside of your blood vessels, a condition called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. The good news is that by quitting smoking you can reverse some cholesterol damage. Plus, after one year without smoking, your excess risk of a heart disease is cut in half, according to the Surgeon General’s report on the benefits of quitting. Your blood pressure and heart rate can decrease in as little as 20 minutes after your last cigarette.
Diabetes: Double Trouble
If you are managing diabetes, you’ll need to be careful managing your cholesterol as well. High blood sugar can increase bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and lower good cholesterol (HDL) levels. As a result, two out of three people with diabetes die of heart disease or stroke. This doesn’t need to be a foregone conclusion though. According to the American Heart Association, lowering your LDL levels can decrease your risk of cardiovascular complications by as much as 20 to 50 percent.
History Repeats Itself
If you have a family history of high cholesterol, even exercise and a healthy diet may not be enough to decrease your cholesterol levels. If you know high cholesterol runs in your family, speak to your doctor about the best ways to manage your risk.
Know Your Medicine Cabinet
What medications are you taking? The side effects of some drugs can actually raise cholesterol. This includes blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers and diuretics, as well as steroids like prednisone. If you are taking any of these drugs, talk to your doctor about monitoring your cholesterol.
A Bad Attitude Can Ruin More Than Your Day
New research suggests that a good attitude can give you more than a sunny disposition — it also can give you extra protection against heart disease. According to one study, pessimists were more likely than optimists to have diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Pessimists also were more likely to be overweight and avoid exercise — important risk factors in high cholesterol. That’s a pretty good reason to change your habits and your outlook!