One of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy heart and circulatory system is having low cholesterol levels in your bloodstream. An elevated cholesterol level has long been associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions, which can be life-threatening if left untreated. If you’re worried about your cholesterol levels, these 10 tips on how to lower cholesterol naturally will help you bring it down to a safer level that’s still healthy for you and your family.

What is cholesterol

The word cholesterol is often used interchangeably with fats, but it isn’t really fat at all—it’s more like a fatty substance that carries certain substances (like fats and proteins) through the bloodstream.

In fact, your body needs cholesterol to produce bile acids that help digest food, as well as vitamin D and hormones like testosterone and estrogen. As such, you want to make sure your cholesterol levels are in check; however, the type of cholesterol you have in your blood can be either good (HDL) or bad (LDL), based on whether it helps or harms your body.

How Does it Affect Our Health?

LDL, or bad cholesterol, causes plaque to form in our arteries, which can lead to heart disease. HDL or good cholesterol transports excess cholesterol out of our bodies.

If you have high LDL and low HDL levels, you may be at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease than someone with normal levels of both.
For some people, these numbers are gene-related; for others, they can be diet-related. Your doctor will test your cholesterol levels after a physical exam and review your family history.

How Does Low-Density Lipoprotein Work?

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol carries cholesterol from your liver to other parts of your body. If you have too much LDL in your blood, it can stick to artery walls and form plaque.

Over time, having high LDL levels will cause more and more plaque to build up, increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol helps remove LDL from your blood and may protect against conditions related to plaque buildup in arteries.

If you have high LDL and low HDL levels, you may be at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease than someone with normal levels of both.

For some people, these numbers are gene-related; for others, they can be diet-related. Your doctor will test your cholesterol levels after a physical exam and review your family history.

What are Normal HDL and LDL Levels

A healthy level should be less than 200 mg/dL for total cholesterol, less than 130 mg/dL for LDL, and greater than 40 mg/dL for HDL. If your levels fall outside that range, you might need medication or lifestyle changes to get them back into balance.

Exercise, weight loss if needed, and eating more fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risks. Even if you’re not at risk now, it’s important to start monitoring your cholesterol early on to ensure you’re living in the fullness of health.

Also, the ratio between HDL and total cholesterol is an important indicator of heart disease risk. The higher your HDL level compared with your total cholesterol level, the lower your risk for developing cardiovascular problems. You can calculate your own ratios using a simple formula: divide your HDL number by your total cholesterol number.

For example, if you have an HDL level of 60 and a total cholesterol level of 140, divide 60 by 140 to get 0.43. That means 43 percent of your total cholesterol is made up of HDL. This means that 57 percent comes from LDL or other types of bad cholesterol like VLDL or IDL.

Most people should aim for an HDL over 50 and a total cholesterol level under 200. Your doctor can help you determine what your ideal numbers should be based on your age, gender, and family history.

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 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
  • Inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and hypothyroidism

stop high cholesterol chart

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:

1. Eat 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, binding to bile salts, and preventing its reabsorption. See, Best Fiber Foods For Constipation.

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. See High Fiber Gluten-Free Foods.

The best foods with insoluble fiber include:

  • Oats
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Psyllium
  • Chia
  • Flaxseed
  • Lentils

2. 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.

3. 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.

When you consume added sugar, your liver has to immediately turn it into fat. This can raise your LDL levels—the so-called bad cholesterol. Cutting out sugary foods will reduce your risk of high cholesterol and improve your heart health overall. How To Beat Sugar Cravings Once And For All.

The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. If you’re interested in lowering your cholesterol naturally, cutting back on sugar is a good place to start. Replace sugary drinks with water or unsweetened tea, and try to limit processed snacks like cakes, cookies, candy bars, and ice cream.

Sugar may be addictive; some people find that their cravings subside after a few weeks when they cut down on sugar. In fact, many food manufacturers add sugar to make otherwise bland foods more palatable. By eliminating these unnecessary sugars from your diet, you can significantly lower your cholesterol and improve your general health without needing to resort to medication. See Effects Of High Blood Sugar On The Body.

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.

4. Quit Smoking

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.

5. Stay active

If still wondering about How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally, try to stay physically active. 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. See, How To Boost Metabolism Naturally and 10 Surprising Health Benefits Of Walking Daily.

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.

6. 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. See, Lifestyle Changes To Lose Weight Permanently, Best Herbs For Weight Loss, and Best Diet For Weight Loss.

7. 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.

fruits and vegetables

8. 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. See Healthy Fats For Vegans. 

9. Get enough sleep

Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep at night have a much higher risk of high cholesterol than those who do. Poor sleep can cause an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone that can have a major impact on your cardiovascular health.

Lack of sleep can also increase triglycerides in your blood, another culprit for cardiovascular conditions. How much sleep is enough? The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-8 hours per night for adults, while children ages 3-12 need at least 10 hours every night.

Getting too little sleep also increases the risk of obesity and diabetes, two conditions that often go hand in hand with high cholesterol.

To keep your heart healthy, try setting a bedtime and sticking to it as best you can. Aim for seven hours of sleep each night. If you still find yourself waking up groggy after eight or nine hours, consult your doctor; they may be able to recommend medications or lifestyle changes that will help normalize your sleeping patterns. See, Why Is Sleep Important?

10. Eat Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, which can help prevent heart disease. They also play a vital role in brain health. Your body does not naturally produce these acids; you need to get them from your diet. Good sources of omega-3s include flaxseed oil, walnuts, avocados, and soybeans.

11. Manage your stress levels

Stress is one of your worst enemies when it comes to keeping cholesterol in check. Stress levels that stay high over a long period of time are associated with an increased risk for heart disease. To lower your LDL, you need a healthy lifestyle, and stress management is a huge part of that equation. See Why Is Stress Management Important. 

When we’re stressed out, our bodies release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline—hormones that cause blood pressure to rise and increase our appetite. This often causes us to indulge in unhealthy foods that also play a role in elevating our levels. So if you want to keep your cholesterol down, try taking some time every day for relaxation activities like yoga or meditation. Best Foods For Stress Relief.

Final Thoughts

Although there are medications to help lower cholesterol, a change in lifestyle and diet is the easiest, most 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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