So you’ve just returned from your doctor’s appointment only to be told you need to lower your cholesterol. Like me, I am sure you would rather avoid medications if at all possible. In this article, we’ll examine a few ways you can lower your cholesterol naturally.
***Keep in mind that depending on your specific health circumstances, even if you do lower your numbers, you still may require medication.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is made in your liver and has many important functions such as keeping the walls of your cells flexible and the making of several hormones.
However, too much cholesterol or cholesterol in the wrong places creates problems.
Like fat, cholesterol does not dissolve in water. Instead, it relies on transport via molecules called lipoproteins to carry it through the blood.
Different kinds of lipoproteins have different effects on health. For example, high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) result in cholesterol deposits in blood vessel walls, which can lead to clogged arteries, strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure.
According to the National Institute of Health, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) helps carry cholesterol away from vessel walls and helps prevent these diseases.
So how can I lower my cholesterol naturally?
1. Change your eating habits
- Reduce saturated fats found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as the “bad” cholesterol.
- Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats, or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarine and store-bought sugary treats such as cookies, cakes, etc.
The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils by Jan. 1, 2021 according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flax seeds.
- Increase soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts and fruits such as apples and pears.
- Add whey protein. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure. If you can’t fit it into your diet, you can buy great whey protein powders such as this one (which happens to be my personal favorite) *affiliate link
2. Get moving!
Moderate exercise can help raise (HDL) cholesterol, also known as the “good” cholesterol. Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight.
Some tips to stay motivated: find an exercise buddy, hire a personal trainer, join a group class or try something you love and have always wanted to do. For me, that’s dancing or even ice skating lessons!
3. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits occur quickly and are reason enough to make the change today!
- Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike
- In three months after quitting, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve
- Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker
4. Lose weight
Unfortunately, even a few extra pounds can make a difference. Try adding healthier substitutes for sugary foods and as mentioned above, increase your activity level.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
When lifestyle changes aren’t enough…
Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower levels but can help lower the dose your doctor recommends. That is important especially if you are taking statins which can have unwanted side effects.