A few important diet and lifestyle changes can help lower cholesterol naturally. There is no magic bullet, but some people can see changes within weeks. Even if you’re on medication, it’s important to make changes to help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of side effects.
How to Lower Cholesterol
A person looking to lower their cholesterol quickly can follow some basic health principles. These include exercising regularly and focusing on a diet rich in plant foods and low in refined foods and certain types of fats.
What is cholesterol?
In the body, the liver makes cholesterol, which is a waxy substance. Cholesterol molecules circulate in the blood. The liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs, so a person does not need to consume cholesterol from their diet. Cholesterol itself is not bad. It plays an important role in building cells.
Other sources of cholesterol come from the diet. Dietary cholesterol is only found in foods of animal origin, such as meat and high-fat dairy products. Experts recommend consuming as little dietary cholesterol as possible. This is because the addition of dietary sources of cholesterol increases the amount of this compound in the body and blood. This increases cholesterol levels.
Measure blood cholesterol level
To measure cholesterol levels, doctors assess four markers in a person’s blood:
– Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: the “bad” cholesterol. A lower LDL level can be a good indicator of health and a lower risk of disease.
– High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: beneficial cholesterol. Low HDL cholesterol can be a risk factor for other problems, and higher HDL can be an indicator of health.
– Blood triglycerides: A common type of fat in the blood. A higher level can mean that a person is at increased risk for certain problems, especially when they also have other risk factors, such as low HDL cholesterol.
– Total cholesterol: this figure takes into account blood triglyceride levels and LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.
Doctors will use all of these numbers in the context of a person’s general health and other risk factors to determine their risk for heart disease and stroke.
Why lower cholesterol?
High cholesterol plays a role in deteriorating heart health. The more cholesterol circulates in the blood, the more difficult it can be for the heart to pump this blood properly. This cholesterol can also contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, which increases the risk of atherosclerosis. High cholesterol puts a person at risk for heart disease, as well as heart attack and stroke.
Dietary changes to lower cholesterol
Cholesterol has a lot to do with what a person eats. That’s why healthy eating is one of the first things doctors recommend for people who want to lower their cholesterol quickly. The following dietary changes can help a person lower their cholesterol as quickly as possible.
1 Eliminate trans fatty acids
Trans fatty acids lower beneficial cholesterol levels and raise unhealthy cholesterol levels. Some dietary trans fats occur naturally in foods such as milk and meat products. Other trans fats come from manufacturing processes. Food companies create them by adding hydrogen to certain fats to make them stronger. Possible sources of trans fats include meat and dairy products, packaged hydrogenated oils, and fried foods from fast food restaurants.
2 Reduce saturated fat
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and may not be healthy in large amounts. Eating large amounts of saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol levels. Limit saturated fat intake to 5-6% of daily calories. Sources of saturated fat include meat and dairy products, such as cheese, butter, and milk. As well as vegetable oils, such as palm and coconut oil.
3 Add plant-based foods
A cholesterol-lowering diet involves eating a wide variety of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds. Adding a variety of plant foods to the diet helps ensure that the body gets the different nutrients and vitamins it needs to function properly. Plant foods are also cholesterol-free, so they do not contribute to cholesterol levels in the body.
Additionally, plant foods contain nutrients that may reduce other risk factors for heart disease. Like antioxidants and certain types of fiber.
4 Increase fiber intake
Plants are the only source of fiber in the diet. Fiber is an important factor in digestive health, which can also affect other risk factors, such as high cholesterol. A high-fiber diet alone can help lower cholesterol levels by 10%. Eating more plant foods will naturally increase fiber intake. People who need extra fiber can consider taking a fiber supplement to help them meet their daily needs.
5 Increase vegetable protein sources
Introducing variety in the diet may help people manage certain risk factors for heart disease. Many people get their protein primarily from animal sources. However, it may be helpful for them to also include vegetable protein sources in their diet.
Plant foods that contain substantial amounts of protein include:
– beans and legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils and peas
– cereals, such as rice, quinoa
– nuts, such as almonds and cashews
– seeds, including pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds
– Adding plant-based protein to the diet can help the body meet its protein needs without adding cholesterol.
6 Eat less refined foods
It is best to avoid refined foods whenever possible. Refined and packaged foods tend to contain ingredients that make them shelf stable while giving them a desirable flavor. These foods often contain ingredients that a person should avoid when trying to lower their cholesterol levels. Some ingredients to avoid include refined grains, added trans and saturated fats, and added sugars.
Lifestyle factors that lower cholesterol
Several lifestyle factors can affect a person’s cholesterol level. Some people may find that making certain lifestyle changes helps lower their cholesterol.
1 physical exercise
Physical exercise plays a key role in cardiovascular health and good cholesterol levels. Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week helps lower cholesterol and other risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
To achieve this, a person must do a 30-minute activity that raises the heart rate 5 days a week. These activities may include:
2 quit smoking
Smoking affects many aspects of health. For people with high cholesterol, smoking lowers beneficial cholesterol levels in the body. A study published in Biomarker Research showed that people who quit smoking experience a rapid increase in their HDL cholesterol. This is an important sign of overall cholesterol health.
3 Maintain body weight
Achieving or maintaining a moderate weight may also reduce risk factors for disease in obese people. It can help people lower their LDL cholesterol levels and raise their HDL cholesterol levels. A weight loss of 10% of a person’s total body weight can help improve their cholesterol levels.
Lower your cholesterol level to maintain your health
High cholesterol is a risk factor for serious events, such as heart failure and stroke. There are a number of diet and lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your cholesterol levels as quickly as possible. These changes include eating a varied and plant-rich diet, avoiding saturated and trans fats, and exercising regularly.
People with very high cholesterol levels may need medication to control their cholesterol. However, they should still prioritize diet and lifestyle changes to support healthy cholesterol levels. .
About cholesterol. (2019).
Forey, BA, et al. (2013). The effect of quitting smoking on HDL-cholesterol — a review based on within-subject changes.
Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia). (2017).
What your cholesterol levels mean. (2020).
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