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How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally


how to lower your cholesterol naturally

High cholesterol can have poor effects on everything from your risk of stroke to your risk of coronary heart disease. So while discovering you need to lower your cholesterol may feel intimidating, you can make simple adjustments to your lifestyle that improve your health and your quality of life.


Here's how to lower your cholesterol naturally:

  1. Know your cholesterol numbers.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Make smart eating choices. 

Let’s dive deeper into each of these practices to empower you with knowledge so you can make healthy decisions for your body. First, though, you need to understand why it’s so important to keep healthy cholesterol levels.


Why Is It Important to Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels?


When you have high cholesterol, you have an increased risk of experiencing heart problems. In fact, according to an article published in the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology high cholesterol is one of the biggest controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease.To add to that, if you participate in unhealthy activities—like smoking, for example—or if you have other underlying conditions—like high blood pressure or diabetes—you carry an even higher risk for these threats that could result in a catastrophic event, such as a heart attack.


Additionally, high cholesterol could lead to a stroke. A high level of cholesterol in the blood can cause a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries called atherosclerosis, which can, in turn, make the arteries grow stiff and narrow. This not only makes it harder for your body to get proper, oxygen-rich blood flow, but it also increases the chance that you could develop a blood clot as well. Approximately, based on CDC research, one out of every three American adults has high cholesterol, so it’s no wonder stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the country.


Understanding Cholesterol Levels


Google Trends shows that people search for “how to lower your cholesterol naturally” at a fairly consistent rate. It’s important that anything you read online is backed by science because while there are thousands of helpful resources online, some may take you down the wrong path. Part of understanding how to lower your cholesterol naturally is understanding what your cholesterol is in the first place. Here’s what you need to know about different types of cholesterol.


Low-Density Lipoprotein


To start the lesson on how to lower your cholesterol naturally, let’s briefly visit low-density lipoprotein.LDL is a combination of protein and fat. Also known as lipids, these fats need to attach to proteins so they can easily move through your blood.


Very Low-Density Lipoprotein


Very low-density lipoprotein, or VLDL, is a particle that your liver produces and then releases into your bloodstream to carry triglycerides—another type of fat—to your tissues.3 VLDL might sound similar to LDL cholesterol, but LDL is mainly carrying cholesterol to your tissues rather than transporting triglycerides.

Both LDL and VLDL are sometimes referred to as the "bad" kinds of cholesterol because they are, again, known to contribute to that buildup of plaque in your arteries that you read about earlier. But remember, although the two sound alike and both carry substances through the body, VLDL and LDL are different in what they actually transport. It’s important not to think of them as the same thing.


High-Density Lipoprotein


HDL stands for high-density lipoproteins, and like LDL, it is a combination of fat—or lipid—and protein. HDL is sometimes labeled the "good" kind of cholesterol because it carries the substance from other parts of your body back to the liver, at which point the cholesterol is removed from the body.

In fact, according to an article published in Drugs in Context, when it comes to HDL cholesterol, higher numbers are better (unlike LDL and VLDL).4 A high HDL level can actually help lower your risk for stroke and coronary artery disease.


Healthy Cholesterol Levels


A healthy cholesterol range can vary from person to person depending on age, lifestyle, family history, and other factors. Generally speaking, low LDL and high HDL cholesterol levels are ideal for optimal heart health. Having high levels of triglycerides can also put you at more of a risk for heart disease. Your doctor will measure your cholesterol levels in milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL) of blood. For instance, a good range for your total cholesterol will typically be less than 200mg/dL, with 200–239 mg/dL being borderline.


3 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally


While a few of these facts may sound a bit scary, don’t let them intimidate you. The truth is, when you follow the necessary steps recommended by a physician to help you stay within healthy levels, you lower your risk of major conditions that could hinder your quality and length of life. Luckily, there are three major things you can do to lower your cholesterol naturally.


1. Know Your Cholesterol Numbers


It is important that you check your cholesterol levels frequently, as knowing their status can help you better maintain your levels and overall heart health. Regularly getting your cholesterol checked by your healthcare provider can help determine whether there is room for improvement in your lifestyle habits, especially when it comes to food and exercise.

Keep in mind that you should not be discouraged if you are asked to make a change by your doctor—the purpose is to rebalance your levels so your overall health can improve.


2. Exercise Regularly


It should come as no surprise that exercise can improve your cholesterol levels. However, you may not have thought about why that is, specifically.

As it turns out, even moderate physical activity can help raise your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" type of cholesterol).5 Exercise can also help sustain a healthy weight and lower pesky triglycerides. Plus, if you’re at all overweight, losing weight can help improve your cholesterol levels too.


3. Make Smart Eating Choices


Choosing healthy foods to eat can help lower your LDL cholesterol and even raise your HDL, which is the ideal combination. Since experts like those at the American Heart Association tell us that what you put into your body affects your cholesterol levels, knowing which fats raise LDL cholesterol and which do not can empower you to lower your risk of dangerous health conditions. Read on to learn which foods you should avoid—and which you can stock up on!


Best Foods to Avoid in Order to Lower Cholesterol


Here are foods you should regularly limit in your meals to lower your cholesterol naturally.


Saturated Fats


Consuming a lower amount of saturated fats can work wonders in helping you lower your cholesterol. Saturated fat raises your LDL more than anything else you could eat. It is found in dairy products, some meats, baked goods, chocolate, deep-fried treats, and processed foods.

When you need to lower your cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends you reduce your intake of saturated fat to no more than five to six percent of your total daily calories. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, that would be about 11–13 grams of saturated fat.


Trans Fats


In a similar vein, trans fats can actually raise your LDL while also lowering your HDL—which makes them doubly dangerous. Eating a lower amount of trans fat can help you achieve safer cholesterol levels. Trans fat is mostly found in foods that are made with hydrogenated oils and fats. These can include french fries, some types of crackers, and margarine.


Best Foods to Eat to Lower Cholesterol


On the other hand, there are foods you might want to make a point of working into your daily meal plan because they can help you balance your levels—just as trans fats and saturated fats can throw off that critical balance. The foods that might help you best in your quest to learn how to lower your cholesterol naturally include foods with omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids


While omega-3 fatty acids won't lower your LDL cholesterol levels, they could help raise your HDL cholesterol levels. They may also help protect you from inflammation and blood clots and reduce your risk of having a heart attack.6

Many types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids—including salmon, mackerel, and canned or fresh tuna. Aim to incorporate these into your meals at least twice a week. However, you should be careful not to have too much tuna due to mercury content. In moderation, tuna is good for you—you just don’t need mercury compounding in your system.


Soluble Fiber


Foods high in soluble fiber content help prevent the digestive tract from absorbing too much cholesterol.7 Foods high in soluble fiber include whole-grain cereals like oatmeal and oat bran; fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, prunes, and pears; and legumes like kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, and black-eyed peas.

Soluble fiber can also make you feel full more quickly so you can more easily manage your weight—just make sure to increase your intake slowly to prevent an upset stomach.


How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally: Become a Pro


It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional while learning how to lower your cholesterol naturally in a safe, healthy way.

Another step you can take to discover your body’s specific needs is to check out our powerful, FREE resource: Can a DNA Test Really Tell You How to Eat? It’s a comprehensive guide we prepared to help you take the next level in your journey of learning what your DNA can tell you about nutrition.


References

1. Kratz M. Dietary Cholesterol, Atherosclerosis and Coronary Heart Disease. Atherosclerosis: Diet and Drugs Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology. 2005:195-213. doi:10.1007/3-540-27661-0_6.

2. Ivanova EA, Myasoedova VA, Melnichenko AA, Grechko AV, Orekhov AN. Small Dense Low-Density Lipoprotein as Biomarker for Atherosclerotic Diseases. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017;2017:1-10. doi:10.1155/2017/1273042.

3. Prenner SB, Mulvey CK, Ferguson JF, Rickels MR, Bhatt AB, Reilly MP. Very low density lipoprotein cholesterol associates with coronary artery calcification in type 2 diabetes beyond circulating levels of triglycerides. Atherosclerosis. 2014;236(2):244-250. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2014.07.008.

4. Kosmas CE, Martinez I, Sourlas A, et al. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) functionality and its relevance to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Drugs in Context. 2018;7:1-9. doi:10.7573/dic.212525.

5. Mann S, Beedie C, Jimenez A. Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations. Sports Medicine. 2013;44(2):211-221. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0110-5.

6. Goh YK, Clandinin MT, Jumpsen JA, Ryan EA. Effect of omega 3 fatty acid on plasma lipids, cholesterol and lipoprotein fatty acid content in NIDDM patients. Diabetologia. 1997;40(1):45-52. doi:10.1007/s001250050641.

7. Bazzano LA. Effects of soluble dietary fiber on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and coronary heart disease risk. Current Atherosclerosis Reports. 2008;10(6):473-477. doi:10.1007/s11883-008-0074-3.
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