Has your doctor informed you that your cholesterol is too high? Understandably you may be concerned about your options. Drugs like statins are usually prescribed for high cholesterol, but many people worry about side effects. You may want to consider natural lifestyle approaches to bring relief.
High cholesterol is a serious matter that can limit your blood flow, increasing your risk for a heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. Your body however, needs some cholesterol to make cell membranes, vitamin D, and a wide variety of hormones.
For optimal health, you want to limit how much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — known as “bad” cholesterol — your liver makes, because that’s the cholesterol that causes clogged arteries. LDL cholesterol comes from animal products.
At the same time, you want to maintain adequate amounts of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) — known as “good” cholesterol — that transports cholesterol back to your liver where it can be removed from your bloodstream before it builds up in your arteries.
Simple, natural lifestyle changes can make a big difference in helping you to balance your cholesterol. Try making these ideas part of your daily routine.
- Avoid trans fats. These hydrogenated fats increase total cholesterol and LDL while decreasing HDL. A diet loaded with trans fat increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of adults. Become an adamant label reader and keep an eye out for foods with trans fat.
- Reduce meat intake. Meat, especially beef and pork is the top source of saturated fat for many Americans. Consider a plant-based diet or meat-free days; for example — “Meatless Mondays — with vegetarian dishes. Using low-fat or non-dairy can be an added benefit.
- Increase your fiber intake. Soluble fiber (fiber which dissolves in water) can reduce the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream and help you live longer. Smart choices include beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Choose healthy fats. Replace saturated fats like those found in meat and dairy, with unsaturated fats which can be found in foods such as nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. Contrary to some studies which suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce cholesterol levels, studies now show that drinking alcohol can increase cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Drinking can also harm your liver and other organs.
- Cook light. The way you prepare your food is vitally important for good health. Cut back on cooking oil. Bake and boil instead of frying.
Other Lifestyle Choices
Studies have shown that aerobic exercise and other smart choices can enhance the lipid-lowering effects of a heart-friendly diet. As a bonus, many of these habits will enhance your overall wellbeing, as well as lower your cholesterol.
- Exercise regularly. There are several theories about why exercise lowers cholesterol, including promoting weight loss and stimulating enzymes that remove cholesterol from your bloodstream. Aerobic activities and resistance training are both beneficial.
- Lose weight. Slimming down can lower your cholesterol too. Work on finding a diet that is healthy and sustainable. Let your family and friends know about your goals and how they can support you.
- Quit smoking. The tar in tobacco damages blood vessels and increases your risk for high cholesterol. Maybe you’ve tried to quit smoking many times before, but weren’t successful. Don’t stop trying now. It sometimes takes multiples times before you actually succeed. Be determined. Combining nicotine replacement strategies and social support may help you to quit.
- Consider natural supplements. There’s a big market for cholesterol-reducing supplements. Red yeast rice and niacin are examples of some. Your doctor can advise you about possible drug interactions and other safety concerns.
Talk with health care provider about developing a strategy based on your individual needs. Natural methods may help you to manage your cholesterol without taking drugs or may enable you to reduce your dosage.
Photo by: Greg Rosenke