Cholesterol is a naturally occurring lipid that plays a vital role in several bodily processes, including nutrient absorption, hormone synthesis, and vitamin D production. The body makes it, and it is also present in the food people eat. It has a fatty, waxy texture. Having a working knowledge of the different kinds of cholesterol is helpful for predicting when you might need to lower one of them.
The following readings can be obtained for a brief overview of what levels we can expect in a cholesterol test. Have a look at the article here to know more about cholesterol levels and diagnosis.
If you have high cholesterol levels, you likely have an excess of LDL and a deficiency of HDL. Approximately one-third of Americans have high cholesterol levels. But there are steps you may do immediately to reduce your LDL and improve your HDL.
New evidence focuses on managing cholesterol levels rather than reducing or increasing one or other. Thus maintaining a healthy balance between “good” and “bad” cholesterol is the key.
- Reducing cholesterol levels overall. Levels below 200 mg/dL are often advised.
- Lowering bad cholesterol (LDL). When blood alcohol concentrations are higher than 190 mg/dL, health risks become obvious.
- Increasing good cholesterol (HDL) levels. A level of around 60 mg/dL is safe, while levels below 40 mg/dL are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Lowering triglycerides. The usual range is 20 to 100, with less than 150 being ideal.
These levels and goals can be achieved easily with the help of small changes in lifestyle. Such as,
The Earlier, the Better.
Researchers of a 2018 research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology have shown that lowering cholesterol early in life, before the onset of plaque accumulation, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by three times compared to ignoring these good changes until middle age.
Physical activity has positive effects on your health from head to toe. It’s an effective method of reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which strengthens your heart.
Physical activity that boosts your heart rate for 30 minutes five times a week has been proven to increase your good HDL cholesterol while decreasing your bad LDL and triglycerides. You can choose any form of physical activity that resonates with you, such as walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or rollerblading.
But the following has been especially focused and particularly found beneficial in research for lowering cholesterol levels.
- Walk. Walking may be a superior workout for maintaining joint health, especially as we age.
In 2013, researchers published encouraging findings in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology about this topic. The findings indicated that the quantity of exercise performed was more important than the specific form of physical activity. Even though it’s a slower way to burn calories, it would take roughly the same amount of energy to run 4.3 miles at a quick pace as it would run three miles.
2. Jogging. If you enjoy being outdoors and generally have healthy joints, running may be the ticket to lower cholesterol, a trimmer waistline, and a healthy body mass index (BMI).
Just don’t feel like you have to race. Compared to shorter-distance runners, ultramarathoners had greater increases in their HDL cholesterol levels, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2013. By this, it is conceivable that a few miles of moderate jogging can do more for your cholesterol than a quick sprint around the block.
3. Swimming. As we all know, swimming is considered an overall body workout. It was found to be more effective than walking in reducing body fat and LDL cholesterol in women between 50 and 70.
4. Aerobic training. It is the most often advocated physical activity to lower cardiovascular disease risk. It is the only kind of exercise that has been shown to improve heart and vascular health.
5. Yoga. Yoga has been shown in several studies to lessen the danger of cardiovascular disorders by direct lowering cholesterol levels, according to a review of studies published in 2022 in the journal Systematic Review. In another research published in the Indian Heart Journal, total and LDL cholesterol were lowered through a three-month yoga practice.
According to a European Journal of Preventive Cardiology meta-analysis, yoga practitioners had lower LDL cholesterol, higher HDL cholesterol, and lower blood pressure than sedentary adults. So aim for 25 minutes of yoga 3-4 times a week.
Motivate yourself to work out by recruiting a friend or signing up for a class this will keep you boosted to give some health advantages to your body and health. Ultimately, the ideal workout is the one that you will stick with.
3. Dietary Modifications.
Eating more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil and avocados, can boost your good HDL cholesterol. A healthy heart is another benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and lean proteins like soy, chicken, and fish are all advised by the American Heart Association. Salt, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, and red meat should all be limited in your diet.
- Reduce Trans and Saturated fats. Cholesterol levels in the blood can be lowered and heart disease risk lowered by consuming less saturated fat. Saturated and trans fats are both contributors to a rise in LDL cholesterol. This is because the liver produces more cholesterol than usual when you eat saturated fats.
So, keep your saturated fat intake to less than 6% of your total caloric intake daily, as suggested by American Heart Association. However, deli sandwiches, burgers, tacos, burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches, and hot dogs account for more than 10% of the daily calories consumed by 77% of Americans. So it’s always suggested to stay n moderation.
- Go Easy on Red meat. Saturated fats, found in abundance in many types of red meat, have been linked to increases in LDL cholesterol. Skinless chicken, turkey, or fish meat is the better solution, and processed meats should be avoided.
It doesn’t mean you should totally cut it off from the diet. Saturated fats are fine in moderation, just like anything else. You should only limit how often you consume them.
- Increase Soluble Fiber Intake. Cholesterol in the diet can be eliminated from the body by binding to fiber. This is why experts suggest aiming for 25 grams of soluble fiber in a day.
This is achievable with a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, fruits, and whole grains like oats, beans, cabbage, apples, pears, and flaxseed. However, dietary supplements such as psyllium husks can also be helpful. Research has proven its benefits for blood cholesterol levels. A 2014 study suggested that the use of statins coupled with an increase in the consumption of whole-grain meals high in fiber was related to better lipoprotein profiles in adults over 45.
- Veggies are Your Best Friend. Vegetarian food has come a long way, and many dishes now equal their meat-based counterparts in taste and satiety. Cholesterol levels may be lowered in several ways at once by opting for a vegan option that has been carefully prepared, including the consumption of healthy fats and an increase in soluble fiber.
- Use Oils Instead of Butter. Instead of using solid fats such as butter, margarine, shortening, or lard for cooking, baking, or frying, use healthy oils. The AHA recommends cooking with oils with less than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon (and no trans fats).
It is easy to swap solid unhealthy fat into easier ones like sunflower and olive oil, as unsaturated fats are more beneficial than saturated fats and are plentiful in oils. In contrast, saturated fats are prevalent in solid fats.
- Use low-fat options for Dairy. Choosing a healthy dairy replacement is one of the easiest ways to improve one’s diet. Because saturated fat and cholesterol are found in full-fat dairy products, avoiding them is a good idea. This can be achieved by replacing high-fat dairy products with low-fat ones. Such as skim milk offers around 83 calories, zero grams of saturated fat, and 5 mg of cholesterol per serving.
Cholesterol levels in the blood can be maintained at healthier levels with the use of a low-fat (or non-fat) diet.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight.
Keeping the pounds off and the waistline in check has never been simple, but it’s worth it for its health benefits, like lower cholesterol levels and less stress on the heart. It also helps reduce the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Just 10% weight loss can lessen the risk of Type 2 diabetes, numerous cancers, high cholesterol, and triglycerides and lessen the strain on joints.
Your weight is just as significant as your appearance. Apple-shaped people tend to have high cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and liver and pancreatic fat. This impairs their function, causing liver, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Learn more about these body shapes and how they affect overall health in our exclusive article here.
A healthy weight is what your BMI suggests. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to consult your doctor and devise a strategy together.
5. Add Beneficial Foods to Your diet.
Cholesterol may be lowered in many ways depending on the diet consumed. Soluble fiber provided by some foods binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive tract, preventing them from entering the bloodstream. Such beneficial foods are mentioned down below.
- Nuts. Numerous studies have shown that nuts consumption has positive effects on cardiovascular health. Consuming around 2 ounces of nuts daily has been shown to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels by around 5 %.
- Soya. It is believed that consuming soybeans and soybean-based products (such as tofu and soy milk) effectively reduces cholesterol levels. The effect is more muted than previously thought, with studies showing that 25 g of soy protein daily can reduce LDL by 5% to 6%.
- Legumes. Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils are an excellent source of plant-based protein and can help decrease “bad” LDL levels. Consuming 100 grammes (half a cup) of legumes daily reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol by 6.6 mg/dl compared to not consuming legumes.
- Oatmeals. Beta-glucans, found in both oats and mushrooms, have been shown to bind cholesterol, reducing blood cholesterol levels.
- Avocados. They have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering impact by clinical research.
- Cocoa. Despite scepticism, scientific evidence supports the concept that cocoa and dark chocolate help reduce levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. According to a research, people took cocoa drink for a month and their “bad” LDL cholesterol decreased by 0.17 mmol/l (6.5 mg/dl). Both their blood pressure and “good” HDL cholesterol levels improved. Always prefer dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of 75% to 85% or use pure cocoa.
6. Read Nutrition Labels.
Reading nutrition labels is one of the easiest things you can do to control your cholesterol levels and avoid excess of it. Trans fats are one of the worst elements for your cholesterol levels, so reading nutrition labels can help you avoid them and learn about the healthy nutrients you’re getting from your food.
Trans fats, often known as hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, are a sneaky component food makers love but are unhealthy.
So, if you want to reduce your cholesterol levels, it’s important to pay attention to food labels and steer clear of trans fats wherever possible. Eliminating these foods from your diet can have a significant effect on lowering your cholesterol levels.
7. Cut off from Drinking.
Due to the hazards and risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption, the American Heart Association does not advocate consuming alcohol for heart health at this time. There is some evidence that low-to-moderate alcohol use (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for males) can increase HDL cholesterol but not enough to recommend it to non-drinkers. So it is best to avoid it if you wish to have low cholesterol levels.
8. Quit Smoking.
If you are a smoker, make it your life’s goal to stop before you reach age 50. Smoking causes heart disease in several ways, especially in how it processes cholesterol levels. Immune cells cannot return cholesterol formed on vessel walls to circulation and transfer it to the liver in smokers. This is not caused by nicotine in cigarettes but by tar. So quitting saves lives by saving people from its harmful effects.
It has been demonstrated that smoking and vaping lower HDL cholesterol levels. Compared to smokers, the risk of developing coronary heart disease is reduced by 50% within 12 months after giving up smoking.
9. Cholesterol-lowering medications.
When diet and lifestyle adjustments fail, there are medication options that can help. Medicine for someone with high cholesterol will be determined by the individual’s cholesterol level and other risk factors. Statins and other drugs may be necessary for those who have a high risk.
The statin and fibrates class of medications has proven to be the most effective in the fight against high cholesterol. The most common statins include,
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- fluvastatin (Lescol)
- rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- simvastatin (Zocor)
Statin drug was shown to reduce the relative risk of heart attacks by over 60% in a recent study of heart patients. Although there are minimal reported adverse effects from using statins, some individuals have experienced gastrointestinal distress from the medication, including constipation, bloating, and cramping.
You can reduce your LDL by as much as 15% with the use of the tablet bempedoic acid. It works with the same mechanism as that statins. You need a family history of elevated cholesterol or a diagnosis of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease to acquire a prescription at this time.
Even if you are taking medicine to decrease your cholesterol levels, it is still important to eat a diet low in saturated fat and exercise regularly.
10. Add Phytosterols.
Phytosterols are a new type of natural compound that is gaining popularity for cholesterol level reduction, and people are shifting toward this method. They resemble cholesterol in structure and function; therefore, they compete with cholesterol for absorption by the digestive system.
When plant sterols are digested in place of cholesterol, a portion of the cholesterol is removed as waste. This reduces cholesterol levels and enhances general health. Researchers have found over 250 distinct phytosterol kinds. Typical examples include:
According to studies, a daily intake of 2 grams of phytosterols has been linked to an 8-10% reduction in LDL cholesterol. Statin and ezetimibe patients can also benefit from ingesting phytosterols. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) advises 2 grams of phytosterols daily to help prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease. Amounts of phytosterols can also be found in foods like legumes, nuts, vegetables, wheat germ, and vegetable oils.
There is considerable amountof research pieces that suggest the use of supplements that can equal advantages to manage cholesterol levels in the body.
- Psyllium. Psyllium fibre has been shown in a meta-analysis research of 28 trials to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels, hence decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease due to atherosclerosis in those with and without high cholesterol. 7 g of soluble fibre per day, equivalent to 10.2 g of psyllium husk, is recommended by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Co Enzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation was demonstrated to lower total cholesterol in multiple studies including a total of 409 people but not effecting HDL or LDL lvels. CoQ10 supplementation increased total cholesterol and HDL levels in a review of studies including adults with coronary artery disease.
- Fish Oil. Omega3Q10, which is derived from fish oil, was shown in one research to lower high blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL levels in elderly people with these conditions.
There is evidence that some people can observe beneficial reductions in LDL levels in as little as four weeks, although in reality, the response is often longer. Staying consistent is the key to lower cholesterol levels.
Sometimes, both medication and dietary adjustments are required. It is best to consult your doctor for the best treatment according to your condition. You and your doctor can create a personalized cholesterol-lowering plan that includes food, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
Does it seem like a lot to take on? Don’t let that scare you. Reducing high cholesterol levels doesn’t call for a comprehensive lifestyle transformation. Instead, it would be best if you focused on shifting your outlook. If you view it as implementing new habits rather than quitting the old ones, you’ll find the process more positive and empowering. Also, you don’t have to do this alone; always seek a doctor’s advice before starting any diet or supplement.