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Fighting high cholesterol: 11 lifestyle changes to control cholesterol in winter | Health

Winter season has a happy vibe to it with Christmas and New Year festivities round the corner and a lot of leisure time with friends and family. It is also the time when people love to curl up in their blankets and have endless cups of tea and coffee. However, due to all the comfort food, decreased activity and lack of exercise, winter also raises risk of chronic diseases. A 2015 Lancet study published in the Lancet analysed over 74 million deaths around the world and found that more than 7% of deaths were attributed to exposure to cold temperatures. In winter, the blood pressure goes up as body’s natural defence mechanism to fight the cold. This can further increase risk of heart attack and stroke. We also tend to gravitate towards unhealthy and high-calorie stuff in this season which can also increase cholesterol levels in the body. We talked to experts on how to manage cholesterol levels in winter to avoid health issues. (Also read | Ancient Wisdom Part 8: Coriander can lower cholesterol; know how to add it to your diet)

Winter brings its own set of challenges to managing cholesterol levels. (Freepik)

“Winter brings its own set of challenges to managing cholesterol levels. The cold weather can lead to decreased activity and a tendency to crave unhealthy comfort foods. However, with some smart adjustments to your lifestyle, you can counteract these winter woes and keep your cholesterol in check,” Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Nutritionist, Apollo Hospitals.

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“To manage cholesterol during winter, consider opting for whole fruits instead of juices to help avoid an increase in triglycerides. Additionally, be mindful of your salt intake by reducing its use in cooking and steering clear of preserved foods. When it comes to desserts, make healthier choices by swapping traditional high-sugar options like moong dal halwa, gulab jamun, and jalebi with alternatives such as nut chikki, a piece of jaggery, or a serving of fruit custard. These dietary adjustments can contribute to a heart-healthy lifestyle during the colder months,” adds Rohtagi.

“Controlling cholesterol levels is important year-round, but especially during the winter months when people tend to be less active and may eat more comfort foods. Implementing lifestyle changes, individuals can proactively manage cholesterol levels during winter, promoting cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of related complications,” says Dr Pankaj Ranjan HOD & Senior Consultant – Cardiology, Yatharth Hospitals.

Lifestyle changes to control cholesterol in winter

Rohtagi shares a list of lifestyle modifications that can help beat cholesterol in cold season

1. Focus on winter-friendly fruits and vegetables

Don’t let the cold deter you from your daily dose of fruits and vegetables! Winter offers a bounty of fresh produce like citrus fruits, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), and root vegetables (carrots, beets, potatoes). These are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fibre, all beneficial for heart health and cholesterol management. Additionally, consider seasonal fruits like apples, pears, and pomegranates for a healthy and delicious snack.

2. Embrace warming whole grains

Swap out refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta for whole grains like oats, quinoa, barley, and brown rice. These complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy and are rich in fibre, which helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Oatmeal, in particular, is a great winter breakfast option, offering a warm and comforting start to your day.

3. Make healthy fats your friends

Not all fats are created equal. While saturated and trans fats contribute to high cholesterol, unsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in heart health. Incorporate foods rich in omega-3s, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds, into your winter diet.

4. Stay active despite the cold

Winter weather can make it tempting to hibernate indoors, but staying active is crucial for managing cholesterol. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. Even small bursts of activity throughout the day can add up and make a difference. Consider indoor activities like brisk walking, swimming, dancing, or online fitness classes to stay active during the colder months.

5. Prioritise sleep

Adequate sleep is vital for overall health and well-being, and it also plays a role in managing cholesterol. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Establishing a consistent sleep routine can help regulate your body’s natural rhythm and promote better sleep quality.

6. Manage stress effectively

Chronic stress can negatively impact cholesterol levels. Find healthy ways to manage stress during the winter season, such as yoga, meditation, spending time in nature, or connecting with loved ones. Stress-reduction techniques can improve your overall well-being and contribute to a healthier heart.

Dr Pankaj Ranjan adds other changes in your routine that help lower cholesterol levels.

7. Balanced diet

Emphasise a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit saturated and trans fats, commonly found in fried and processed foods, as they contribute to elevated cholesterol levels.

8. Omega-3 fatty acids

Incorporate sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), flaxseeds, and walnuts. These essential fats have been associated with lower levels of LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad’ cholesterol.

9. Stay hydrated

Adequate water intake is crucial for overall health, including cholesterol management. Staying hydrated supports metabolism and helps flush out toxins, contributing to optimal lipid profiles.

10. Regular exercise

Engage in regular physical activity, even in colder weather. Exercise has a positive impact on cholesterol levels by raising HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the ‘good’ cholesterol, and promoting weight management.

11. Vitamin D supplementation

During winter, when sunlight exposure is limited, consider vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to unfavourable lipid profiles, and maintaining adequate levels may positively influence cholesterol levels.


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