- A cardiologist has shared four lifestyle choices he makes to try to maintain low levels of cholesterol.
- Too much of a “bad” type of cholesterol can block arteries, which puts people at risk of heart disease.
- Dr. Ali Haider said that he limits the amount of meat he he eats and tries to get enough sleep.
A cardiologist has shared four lifestyle choices that he makes to try to keep his cholesterol low.
Too much of what is known as LDL cholesterol — which is considered a “bad” type — can block arteries. This puts people at risk of heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.
Two in five US adults have high cholesterol, according to the CDC.
Dr. Ali Haider, an interventional cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, said that every adult should get a cholesterol check to know their levels, and he does this yearly.
Haider, 44, who has a “very good” cholesterol profile, said that cholesterol levels in the blood depend on diet and how well the liver removes it from the blood, which can come down to genetics. This is a reason why some people have high cholesterol levels in their blood despite eating a healthy diet, he said.
Haider, who doesn’t have a family history of high cholesterol, makes food and lifestyle choices to control his cholesterol. He added that diets and exercise regimens for heart health should be individualized.
Eat meat only twice a month
Haider ate meat five times a week until two years ago, but has since cut down on high-fat animal protein.
Haider now eats meat around twice per month, and chooses low-fat, grass-fed steak or lean chicken. Research suggests grass-fed beef has a less fat overall than grain-fed beef, and also contains healthier types of fat like omega-3.
Haider has swapped steak for fish, like salmon, and also enjoys vegetarian meals that contain pistachios or almonds.
Saturated fat in meat protein can increase “bad” cholesterol levels. “Think of saturated fats as fats that are sort of solid state at room temperature, for example: meat protein, coconut oil, ghee, and palm oil,” he said.
Unsaturated fats, like those in oily fish or nuts, can lower “bad” cholesterol, he said.
Eat foods like oats and beans that bind to cholesterol
Haider said that minimally processed whole grains — rather than highly refined ones like white rice or bread — as well as beans bind to cholesterol so the body can’t absorb it.
Haider said that he often eats oats. He and his wife are also “big fans” of beans, which he never used to like.
“You can actually make it quite tasty,” he said.
Haider said that exercise is “super important,” because it can lower cholesterol, independent of diet.
Daily, Haider makes sure that he walks briskly around the hospital and chooses to take the stairs over elevators. He also tries to use his Peloton bike for at least 20 minutes twice a week, though he said expensive equipment or gyms aren’t essential.
The American Heart Association recommends that people get two and a half hours of “moderate” physical activity per week, such as dancing or gardening, or 75 minutes of “vigorous” exercise, like jumping rope, running, or swimming, he said.
To do this, Haider aims to eat at a reasonable time, and avoids caffeine and screens at night.