High Cholesterol? Here are 6 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally
Cholesterol has important functions in the body but can quickly cause serious health conditions when it gets out of balance. Healthy fats, Omega-3 rich foods, soluble fiber, exercise, weight loss, and quitting smoking can all help lower cholesterol levels.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that our bodies need to build healthy cells. Although it often gets a bad rap (and too much can be dangerous), the truth is that our bodies simply couldn’t function without cholesterol.
Not all cholesterol is the same. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – or “bad cholesterol” – can make plaque in your arteries, putting you at risk for hardened arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, vascular issues and more. On the other hand, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – “good cholesterol” – actually helps remove that bad cholesterol from your bloodstream.
If you have high cholesterol levels, it usually means that you have too much LDL and not enough HDL. High cholesterol levels affect around one in every three Americans. But there are changes you can make today to help lower your LDL and increase your HDL.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol, as well as other fats, are transported throughout your bloodstream via lipoproteins. They are known as high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and very-low-density lipoproteins (VDL).
- HDL: Also known as "good cholesterol" carries cholesterol from different areas of the body back to the liver where it is removed from the body.
- LDL: This type is considered to be "bad cholesterol" because it increases your risk of heart disease and vascular problems because it can harden and lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries.
- VLDL: Another type of "bad cholesterol." VLDL leads to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, but unlike LDLs that carry cholesterol, VLDLs primarily transport triglycerides, which are the most common fat in the body. 2 High levels of triglycerides in your body may increase your risk of heart disease.
Ways to Naturally Lower Your Cholesterol
There are some things you can do to lower LDL and raise levels of HDL simply by making a few lifestyle changes.
1. Eat More Foods Rich in Fiber
Eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that contain fiber can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber is best because it acts like a sponge in the digestive tract. Oat bran, oats, barley, lentil, and dried beans are all good sources of soluble fiber.
2. Get Moving
Since obesity is a risk factor, exercising is an excellent idea for anyone concerned about high cholesterol. Engaging in regular physical activity also lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol up to ten percent. Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day at least five days a week. Some excellent forms of exercise for combating high HDL include walking briskly, engaging in sports activities, swimming, and riding a bicycle. Of course, you should consult your physician before beginning any new form of physical activity.
3. Load Up on Omega-3
Strive to eat food that contains omega-3 fatty acids at least two to three times a week, which helps to increase good HDL cholesterol. Herring, mackerel, canned tuna are some foods that contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil and plant sources such as canola, soybeans, walnuts almonds, and flaxseeds are also good sources. However, eating fish itself is the best way to obtain it. Omega-3 can also help to lower triglycerides and reduce blood pressure. Be sure to check with your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet, especially if taking any anti-clotting medication.
4. Stay Away From Saturated and Trans Fats
Red meat and most dairy products contain saturated fats. Saturated fats are single bond fats that can raise your LDL and lower HDL. Instead, substitute these food items with low-fat dairy, leaner cuts of meat, and monounsaturated fats such as those found in canola and olive oils. Many foods naturally contain small amounts of trans fat. However, most are formed through an industrial process where hydrogen is added to the vegetable oil of a product. Most fried food, cookies, snack cakes, coffee creamer, margarine, and crackers contain trans fats. Because many doctors consider trans fat to be the worst kind of fat you can eat, it should be avoided if at all possible.
5. Stop Smoking
Smoking significantly increases your chances of having a heart attack, especially if you already have high cholesterol. However, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease within minutes of stopping smoking. Your risk of heart disease is cut in half within a year, and after 15 years of quitting smoking, your risk or heart disease is close to the same of someone who has never smoked.
6. Take Your Medicine
If you are having trouble controlling your cholesterol levels, your physician may prescribe medication from a group called statins. Statins work to prevent cholesterol from forming which reduces the amount circulating in the blood. Taking statins can lower your LDL cholesterol from anywhere from 20 % to 50 percent.
Be aware that HDL and LDL levels can and often do rise with age. Don’t be overly alarmed if your numbers begin to change, as you get older. However, beware that some risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity or having diabetes. Fortunately, you can significantly lower your numbers by watching what you eat, getting proper exercise and following your doctor’s prescribed action plan.