What Are Some Simple Ways To Lower Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and has many important functions. For example, it helps maintain the flexibility of cell walls and is necessary for the production of several hormones.
Like fat, cholesterol is insoluble in water. Instead, it relies on molecules called lipoproteins to carry cholesterol, fats and fat-soluble vitamins into the bloodstream.
Different types of lipoproteins have different effects on health. For example, high levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cause cholesterol to be deposited on the walls of blood vessels, leading to clogged arteries, strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL), on the other hand, keep cholesterol away from the walls of blood vessels and help prevent these diseases.
In this article, we’ll explore 10 natural ways to increase “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
The relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol
The liver produces the cholesterol that the body needs. The liver regulates cholesterol and fat into very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL).
As VLDL transports fat to cells throughout the body, the fat is converted to high-density LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which transports cholesterol to where it is needed.
The liver also releases high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which transports unused cholesterol to the liver. This process is called reverse cholesterol transport, and it can prevent clogged arteries and other types of heart disease.
Some lipoproteins, particularly LDL and VLDL, are susceptible to damage by free radicals in a process called oxidation. Oxidized LDL and VLDL are more dangerous to heart health.
Likewise, a number of other lifestyle choices can help increase beneficial HDL and decrease harmful LDL. Here are 10 natural ways to improve your cholesterol levels
Focus on monounsaturated fats
Unlike saturated fats, unsaturated fats have at least one chemical double bond that changes the way they are used by the body. Monounsaturated fats have only one double bond.
Some recommend low-fat diets for weight loss, but a study of 10 men showed that a 6-week low-fat diet reduced levels of harmful LDL as well as beneficial HDL.
Conversely, a diet high in monounsaturated fats reduces harmful LDL but protects against higher levels of healthy HDL.
A study of 24 adults with high cholesterol levels came to the same conclusion: a diet high in monounsaturated fats increased beneficial HDL by 12% compared to a diet low in saturated fats.
Here are some good sources of monounsaturated fatty acids. Some are also good sources of polyunsaturated fats.
- Olives and
- olive oil
- Canola oil
- Nuts such as almonds and walnuts.
- Pecans, hazelnuts and cashews.
- Olive oil and canola oil can be purchased online.
Exercise is good for heart health. Not only does exercise improve fitness and help fight obesity, it also reduces harmful LDL and increases beneficial HDL.
In one study, a 12-week period of aerobic and resistance exercise combined to reduce particularly harmful oxidized LDL in 20 overweight women.
The women performed 15 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week, including walking, jumping, resistance group training and low-intensity Korean dance.
Low-intensity exercise, such as walking, also increased HDL, but the effect was enhanced by making the exercise longer and more intense, the researchers said.
Thirty minutes of activity five days a week is enough to improve cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease, according to an analysis of 13 studies.
Ideally, aerobic exercise should get your heart rate to about 75 percent of your maximum. Resistance training should make up 50 percent of your maximum workout volume.
Any activity that raises your heart rate to 85% of your maximum heart rate will increase HDL and decrease LDL. The longer the time, the greater the effect.
Resistance exercise, even at moderate intensities, can lower LDL. At maximum intensity, it also increases HDL. Increasing the number of sets and repetitions will increase the effect.
Diet affects the way the body absorbs and produces cholesterol.
A two-year study of 90 adults found that regardless of diet, when they followed one of three randomly selected weight-loss diets, losing weight increased cholesterol absorption and decreased the body’s production of new cholesterol.
Over the past two years, “good” HDL increased, but “bad” LDL remained unchanged, reducing the risk of heart disease.
In a similar study of 14 older men, “bad” LDL also declined, providing additional protection for the heart.
A study of 35 young women showed that the body produced less new cholesterol during the six months of weight loss.
Overall, weight loss has the dual effect of increasing HDL, which is good for cholesterol, and decreasing LDL, which is bad for cholesterol.
Smoking increases the risk of heart disease in several ways. First, it changes the way your body processes cholesterol.
A smoker’s immune cells are unable to send cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels back into the bloodstream for transport to the liver. This damage is associated with the tar in cigarettes, not nicotine.
This dysfunction of immune cells may be responsible for the earlier development of clogged arteries in smokers.
In a large study of thousands of adults in the Asia-Pacific region, smoking was associated with lower HDL levels and higher total cholesterol.
Use alcohol in moderation
When used in moderation, the ethanol in alcoholic beverages can increase HDL and reduce the risk of heart disease.
A study of 18 adult women found that consuming 24 grams of white wine alcohol per day increased HDL by 5% compared to consuming the same amount of white grape juice.
Alcohol also improves the reverse transport of cholesterol, the process by which cholesterol is removed from the blood and blood vessel walls and returned to the liver. This can reduce the risk of clogged arteries and heart disease.
Moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of heart disease, but excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver and increase the risk of addiction. It is recommended that men limit themselves to two drinks a day and women to one drink.
There is strong evidence that fish oil and soluble fiber can improve cholesterol and promote heart health. Another supplement, coenzyme Q10, shows promise for improving cholesterol, although its long-term effects are not yet known.
A study of 42 adults found that consuming 4 grams of fish oil per day reduced the total amount of fat transported into the bloodstream. In another study, a daily intake of 6 grams of fish oil increased HDL.
Another study of more than 15,000 adults found that omega-3 fatty acids, including fish oil supplements, can reduce the risk of heart disease and increase life expectancy.
Cholesterol plays an important role in the body, but when it gets out of control, it can clog arteries and cause heart disease.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is more susceptible to damage by free radicals, which can lead to heart disease. In contrast, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) protect against heart disease by removing cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels and returning it to the liver.
If you have a cholesterol imbalance, lifestyle interventions are the first line of treatment.
Unsaturated fats, soluble fiber, plant sterols and stanols can increase good HDL and decrease bad LDL. Exercise and weight loss can also help.
Eating trans fats and smoking are harmful and should be avoided.