Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad guy that you’ve often been told to stay away from. This is because, at high levels, LDL causes cholesterol to build up within your arteries leading to plaque formation, a condition known as atherosclerosis. See How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally!
Atherosclerosis may increase your risk of developing heart disease, coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.
However, the body also uses LDL to deliver cholesterol to different body cells that need it, but too much of it turns out to be harmful.
Contrarily, HDL is considered the good guy because it absorbs and carries excess cholesterol back to the liver. However, in certain scenarios, HDL may get overwhelmed, and the effects of high LDL take over.
That being said, you can naturally lower your LDL. This article will show you exactly how!
What Exactly is Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL?
LDL is one of the two main lipoproteins in the body, with the other one being HDL.
Lipoproteins are substances made up of fat and protein that carry cholesterol throughout the body.
LDL contains the largest amount of cholesterol. This is because it carries fats and cholesterol produced in the liver into the cells and peripheral tissues. HDL, on the other hand, removes any excess cholesterol from the cells back to the liver. This is where it’s metabolized into salts and bile, and finally cleared through the intestines.
This shows that both LDL and HDL are needed in the body, but having the right balance between the two is essential.
While it’s healthy to have too much HDL, high levels of LDL are life-threatening.
Factors Contributing to Increased LDL
When people talk about high cholesterol, it simply means high LDL.
High cholesterol is a silent killer because it typically has no symptoms until complications arise. That’s why it’s crucial to get your cholesterol checked regularly.
High cholesterol may be as a result of:
- Consumption of too many foods rich in cholesterol, such as dairy and other animal products
- High consumption of saturated fats
- Increased consumption of trans fats
- Health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and hypothyroidism
How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally?
Although medications help lower high cholesterol, a lifestyle change is a significant step towards achieving lower cholesterol and having a healthy and long life.
A few things you can do include:
Eating a diet rich in soluble fiber
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and digestive juices in the gut to form a gel-like substance that can help lower cholesterol.
It does so by slowly moving through the small intestines and binding to bile salts and cholesterol. The bile salts may then be reabsorbed into the bloodstream and other body parts.
Reduced absorption of bile salts compels the body to produce more bile. To produce bile, the body has to use cholesterol.
According to research, soluble fiber may help reduce both LDL and total cholesterol by about 5-10% within four weeks.
Best foods with insoluble fiber include:
Eat more unsaturated fats
Research shows that consuming more unsaturated fats when compared to saturated fats may lower LDL by 18% in 8 weeks and total cholesterol by 9% in the same duration.
The best foods with unsaturated fats include nuts, avocado, olives, and olive oil.
Avoid added sugar in the diet.
High consumption of saturated fats is not the only risk of developing high cholesterol levels. Eating lots of added sugar in the diet may also contribute to this.
In one study, getting 25% of their calories from drinks containing fructose and high-fructose corn syrup contributed to increased LDL cholesterol by 17% in just two weeks in both young men and women.
Research has also shown that fructose increases LDL cholesterol oxidation, a high-risk factor for developing heart disease.
Smoking is the greatest culprit associated with high LDL levels. It contains nicotine which accelerates arterial damage and inflammation and increases the release of catecholamine, which increases heart rate and high blood pressure.
With damaged arterial walls, the body will try to repair them by depositing LDL cholesterol. But with chronic smoking, arterial damage and inflammation will continue, and so will the LDL deposition. Over time, this forms plaque and leads to narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels, increasing your risk of complications.
Exercise has been shown to lower LDL but increase HDL.
Exercise also helps increase energy levels, strengthen the heart, increase metabolism, and improve general health and wellbeing.
With increased intensity and duration, any form of exercise may help lower your LDL cholesterol.
According to research, physical activities that increase the heart rate to 85 percent of its maximum are ideal for lowering LDL and increasing HDL. For instance, you can engage in resistance training at maximum effort with increased sets or repetition.
In one study, combining resistance exercise and aerobics such as jumping jacks and walking or low-intensity Korean dance, and resistant-band training reduced LDL in overweight women.
Work on your weight
According to The American Heart Association, one can have high cholesterol with any weight. However, being overweight or obese is undoubtedly associated with high cholesterol by decreasing HDL and increasing LDL.
Researchers believe weight loss may increase cholesterol absorption while decreasing its formation in the body.
They indicate that losing 5-10% of body weight may significantly reduce cholesterol in those with increased risk for cardiovascular complications.
Avoid trans fats
Trans fats are present naturally in animal products and artificially in many foods. They are commonly used in fast foods to prolong the shelf-life and enhance food taste.
Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats increase your LDL while lowering HDL.
Including trans fats in your diet increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Consume more unsaturated fatty acids
Unsaturated fatty acids such as monounsaturated fats decrease bad cholesterol, improve good cholesterol, and prevent oxidation, increasing the risk of clogged arteries.
In one study, substituting polyunsaturated fatty acids for monounsaturated fatty acids reduced the oxidation of fats and cholesterol in the body.
Excellent sources of monounsaturated fatty acids include olive and olive oil, avocado, and tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans.
Cholesterol is essential for different processes in the body. However, having too much in the form of LDL may increase your risk of developing chronic conditions.
Although there are medications to help lower cholesterol, a change in lifestyle and diet is the easiest, affordable, and most efficient way to lower your cholesterol.
Some approaches to take include staying physically active, losing weight, eating more monounsaturated fatty acids, avoiding excessive intake of saturated fatty acids, staying off cigarettes, avoiding trans fats, eating more unsaturated fats containing foods, and eating more a diet rich in fiber.
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