What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a compound which the body produces naturally but is also in some food. It is an essential component of the cell membrane which helps with the production of hormones, Vitamin D, and digestion of food.
Is cholesterol good or bad for you?
Cholesterol can be both good and bad for you depending on the type and level of cholesterol in your blood. Too high or too little cholesterol can contribute to some health problems. Therefore it is important to monitor it frequently to ensure that it stays within the recommended levels.
The desirable total cholesterol level for adults should be less than 200milligrams per deciliter. A reading range of 200-239 mg/dL is borderline whereas any readings of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.
Cholesterol levels for children should be less than 170 mg/dL.A range of 170mg/dL to 199 mg/dL is considered borderline.Whereas any reading above 200 mg/dL is high.
Types of cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol-Low density lipoproteins or LDL (bad cholesterol) and High-density lipoproteins or HDL (Good cholesterol).
Low-density cholesterol (LDL)
According to Farwell health, Low-density cholesterols contain more cholesterol than protein. They tend to cling to the artery walls and form a plaque.
Low-density cholesterol can contribute to the narrowing of the blood vessels and can increase the risk of developing heart disease.
The optimum levels of LDL cholesterol for adults should be less than 100mg/dL to 129mg/dL .However a reading of 130mg/dL to 159mg/dL is borderline and 160mg /dL to 190 is considered high.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
High-density lipoprotein contains less cholesterol but has more proteins. They help to remove cholesterol from the cell and move it to the liver. This type of cholesterol can reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis.
The recommended reading for HDL is 60mg/dL or higher.Whereas any readings between 41mg/dL and 59mg/dL is borderline.
What causes bad cholesterol to Build Up?
Several factors can contribute to high cholesterol. Some causes are avoidable or controlled while some you have no control over. Causes of cholesterol include.
- Poor eating habits
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Can you lower it naturally and fast without medication?
Yes, you can lower your cholesterol at home with lifestyle changes in your diet and exercise regimen but this can be determined by the level of your cholesterol.
In some cases when the cholesterol levels are high and lifestyle changes alone are not enough, your doctor may decide to put you on some drugs to lower it.
Following a healthy lifestyle can help lower your medication doses and you may eventually get off the drugs. Please remember to take your medications as recommended by your doctor, never miss any dose.
Here are the 10 healthy ways you can lower your cholesterol without medication.
1. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
Lack of physical exercise increases the production of low-density lipoproteins. It enhances the accumulation of bad cholesterol in the blood vessels which can cause blockage and reduce the flow of oxygen to the heart.
Exercise increases the production of HDL but reduces LDL. It can help lower the risk of developing most cardiovascular diseases. Moderate physical activities such as walking for a minimum of 30 minutes daily can significantly reduce your cholesterol levels.
Combine both aerobic exercises such as biking or walking with strength training activities such as push-ups. Try to vary the exercises and do not overdo them, so you do not feel overwhelmed.30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily can help.
2. Eat foods high in fiber.
A diet high in soluble fiber is excellent for lowering cholesterol. These foods prevent cholesterol from being reabsorbed into the blood.
Additionally, high fiber foods contain roughage which helps to prevent or reduce constipation and make you regular. Fiber is vital for cleaning your digestive tract. In addition to that, they can reduce the buildup of fat as well as cholesterol in the blood vessels.
Foods high in fiber include oatmeal, beans, whole grains, fruits, flaxseed, and vegetables. These foods not only lower cholesterol but they can help lower blood sugar levels, aid in weight loss, and prolong your life.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
Losing weight can help you lower cholesterol significantly. Being overweight increases your chances of developing cholesterol and other health cardiovascular diseases.
Weight gain increases fat buildup on your liver and other parts of your body thus preventing them from performing their functions effectively. Too much fat on the tissues may obstruct the free flow of blood and oxygen to other parts of the body also.
Try to avoid foods that contribute to weight gain but instead eat foods high in fiber and low in calories. Incorporate daily physical activities too to maintain a healthy weight.
4. Avoid eating processed foods and artificial flavors.
Most processed foods contain saturated fats and refined carbs which can increase your LDL levels.
These foods contain artificial additives, refined sugar, and chemicals which can be harmful to your health. They can easily cause inflammation and increase the risk of developing heart disease.
Try to avoid or limit the intake of processed dairy products, fruit juices, and meats. Limit foods such as bacon, hot dogs, packaged foods, white bread, tortillas, pasta, and egg yolk.
5. Minimize your alcohol intake
Some alcoholic beverages such as red wine may be beneficial to your heart when consumed in moderation. However excessive intake of alcohol can increase the level of low-density triglycerides in the blood and cause obesity.
Additionally, alcohol can also weaken your heart muscles and cause congestive heart failure. It can as well increase the risk of developing stroke, liver cirrhosis, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and sudden deaths.
6. Avoid stress.
Stress may contribute to an increase in LDL. When people are stressed, their cortisol, adrenaline, and cholesterol levels tend to increase as well. (1)
Stress affects people psychologically and physically. They ignore taking care of themselves and end up engaging in unhealthy lifestyles such as drinking excessive alcohol and eating junk food to fill up their emotions.
These lifestyle changes may compromise their immune system and increase the production of bad cholesterol in the blood.
7. Avoid Trans fats
Trans Fats form when vegetable oils are hydrogenated to make them solid and spreadable. They are common in most processed, packaged, and fast foods such as frozen pizzas, cookies, pies, and crackers.
Too much intake of Trans fats may force the kidney to overproduce low-density lipoproteins and increase your chances of developing heart disease.
8. Limit consumption of saturated fats
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They include coconut oil, palm oil, lard, butter, and dark chocolate. These fats can raise the level of cholesterol in some people hence should be consumed in moderate amounts.
9. Consume polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help to balance the fat content in the body. According to the American heart foundation, these fats reduce the level of bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
Additionally, they contain omega three and six fatty acids and are also heart-healthy. They can reduce your chances of developing heart disease and other health conditions. Substitute saturated and trans fats in your diet with these fats.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats come from plants and some animals such as nuts, avocados, seeds, mackerel, and wild salmon.
10. Quit smoking
Smoking increases your heart rate and high blood pressure which forces your heart to work extra hard. It weakens your lungs and prevents it from working efficiently.
The smoke from cigarettes produces tar which clogs your arteries, thickens your blood, and increases your cholesterol levels. This makes it very hard for blood to circulate freely to your heart and other organs.
One study found that smoking increases the oxidative stress and alters the functionality of HDL while increasing the levels of LDL.(3)
Quitting smoking can increase the level of HDL, boost your immunity, and general well-being.
What Foods and drinks are best for lowering High cholesterol?
Here are the best foods for lowering cholesterol.
Nuts have high contents of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as omega-three fatty acids. They are excellent for strengthening and protecting your heart.
Besides, they are rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Eating them in moderation can keep the blood vessels healthy and lower the risk of developing heart disease.
The best nuts for lowering cholesterol include almonds, walnuts, pistachio, and hazelnuts.
Seeds such as flax, chia, sesame, sunflower, and hemp contain fiber and healthy fats. They also have high quantities of antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats. They can help reduce cholesterol as well as your blood sugar levels.
Add them to your smoothies, snacks, salads, or baked foods for an antioxidant boost.
Whole grains such as millet, buckwheat, oats, and barley can help lower cholesterol. They contain high contents of fiber which can help to reduce inflammation and weight gain.
Low-calorie fruits which are high in soluble fiber such as apples, berries, grapes, and citrus fruits can aid in reducing cholesterol.
Fruits have high levels of antioxidants which can help boost your immunity. In addition to that, they contain high contents of fiber which aid in weight loss. They can as well help regulate blood sugar levels in the blood.
Vegetables such as okra, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, broccoli, leafy greens, and root veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets are a good source of fiber and water. They help to increase bulk and prevent constipation.
Besides, most have low calories hence are excellent for increasing the level of good cholesterol while reducing LDL. They can also aid in weight loss.
Some teas such as green tea and ginger tea have high levels of antioxidants which can lower cholesterol levels as well as boost your immune response.
These teas can also help you shed extra pounds, lower high blood pressure, and regulate your blood glucose levels.
Healthy Vegetable oils
Healthy oils from plants and seeds such as olive, avocado, sunflower, sesame, and grapeseed oil are full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which help to lower cholesterol.
Replace trans fats and saturated fats in your cooking to protect your heart and reduce LDL buildup.
Legumes such as beans, lentils, chickpea, soy, and green peas are rich in fiber which helps to reduce bad cholesterol. Additionally, legumes tend to increase satiety and prevent overeating thus are excellent for weight loss.
Wild Fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, and tuna contain extraordinary amounts of omega 3 fatty acids which help to increase HDL cholesterol levels and reduce LDL. They also help to protect and strengthen your heart.
High cholesterol levels in the blood can be detrimental to your health therefore it is important to try and keep them at their optimum levels. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels getting out of balance have it checked by your physician.
Inculcating healthy lifestyle changes in your life is the most important weapon for lowering high-density cholesterol levels in the blood.