Keeping your cholesterol levels down is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing. If your cholesterol levels are high, you become at great risk of a variety of health problems and complications that can significantly lower your quality of life. What should you do to avoid high cholesterol? Can you reduce your cholesterol levels without taking medication?
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance produced in the liver. It plays an important role in several bodily functions and processes, most notably in the:
- Production of bile in the liver
- Formation and development of cellular structure and cellular membrane
- Synthesis of hormones, including the sex hormones
- Synthesis of vitamin D and others
It can also be found in many animal-based foods, such as eggs, organ meats, shellfish, cheese, sardines, full-fat yogurt, beef, and pork.
If it exists in very high levels in the body, it can be detrimental to your health. It can increase your risk of clogged arteries, stroke, heart disease, and other medical complications.
How can you lower your cholesterol levels naturally?
To improve your cholesterol levels the natural way, you have to make some lifestyle changes. Below are examples of things that you need to do to better manage your cholesterol levels:
Stay away from trans fats
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fats that are usually found in processed food products, such as doughnuts, frozen pizza, crackers, cookies, cakes, margarine, and fast food. At room temperature, they become solid, and they can increase your bad cholesterol or LDL levels and reduce your good cholesterol or HDL levels. If you eat lots of high trans fats foods, your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and other diseases increases.
Eat foods that are high in soluble fiber
Having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every day or eating brown rice instead of white rice is a healthy way to reduce your cholesterol levels. In case you did not know, oats and brown rice are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which can aid in lowering your bad cholesterol or LDL levels and your total blood cholesterol levels. They can also help in improving your blood pressure and protect you against inflammation. Other foods that are rich in soluble fiber are beans, barley, carrots, apple, strawberries, hazelnuts, flaxseeds, and guavas.
Eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is good for the heart. They can offer a long list of health benefits, including improving eye and skin health, fighting anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, supporting brain function, and reducing triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Some good examples of foods that are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, chia seeds, sardine, walnut, tuna, herring, chia seeds, and oysters.
If you are overweight or obese, your body cannot produce or absorb cholesterol efficiently. Packing excess fats and pounds tends to make your liver increase its production of new cholesterol. Several studies have found that weight loss can aid in lowering the amount of cholesterol the liver produces, keeping the body’s good cholesterol or HDL levels up and decreasing bad cholesterol or LDL levels.
Increase physical activity
Being more physically active can improve your heart health and physical fitness, and protect you against obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and many other medical complications. There was a study that found that test participants who did aerobic exercises and resistance exercises 15 minutes a day, three days a week, within a twelve-week period had lower bad cholesterol or LDL levels at the end of the study than test participants who did not. In another study, test subjects who engaged in even just low-intensity exercises, such as walking, 30 minutes a day, five days a week, experienced an increase in their good cholesterol or HDL levels.
Smoking has many negative side effects on your health, including your cholesterol levels. The substances found in cigarettes and tobacco can influence how your body manages your cholesterol. Once they get inside of you, they can harm and damage your blood vessels and arteries, disrupting blood flow to your liver, where cholesterol is naturally produced, and other vital organs. As a result, your good cholesterol or HDL levels decrease.
Cut down on your alcohol consumption
Drinking alcohol is not bad if you can do it moderately. It can actually be good for your good cholesterol or HDL levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. In fact, various studies have found that drinking a moderate amount of white wine every day can improve your good cholesterol or HDL levels by 5% and lower your risk of heart disease and clogged arteries. However, if consumed excessively, alcohol can harm your liver and mess up cholesterol production and other liver functions, increasing your risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, and liver disease.
How do you know if you have high cholesterol?
To be on top of your cholesterol and overall health, regular physical exams and check-ups are recommended. Because high cholesterol does not really trigger warning signs and symptoms, you have to go see a doctor and undergo some tests to know if your cholesterol levels are high.
Usually, cholesterol levels are measured via a blood test that checks for your lipid profile or lipid panel. Your test result will include reports on your total cholesterol, good cholesterol or HDL, bad cholesterol or LDL, and triglycerides.
Total cholesterol (measured in milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL)
The desirable values are below 200 mg/dL. Anything over 240 mg/dL is considered high.
Good cholesterol or HDL
The desirable values are 60 mg/dL and above. Anything below 50 mg/dL (if you are a woman) or 40 mg/dL (if you are a woman), is considered poor.
Bad cholesterol or LDL
The desirable values are below 70 mg/dL. Anything over 160 mg/dL is considered high.
The desirable values are below 150 mg/dL. Anything over 200 mg/dL is considered high.