Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? Cholesterol is a waxy substance made by the liver that circulates in your blood. It is necessary for all cell building. But, too much of it can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. There are 2 types of cholesterol, HDL, and LDL. HDL is the good type, and LDL is troublesome if too high.
You can have your cholesterol checked by lab work involving a simple blood test. According to the NIH, total cholesterol should be less than 200mg/dl with LDL at less than 100mg/dl and HDL at 60mg/dl or higher. If your total cholesterol is higher than 200, you can work to lower cholesterol naturally through dietary and lifestyle changes.
Let’s explore some tips for lowering your cholesterol levels and restoring your health.
1. Cut Out Trans Fats
Trans fats are those hydrogenated oils that are found in so many commercially processed and packaged foods, as well as in fried fast food. Think of a stick of margarine, that butter substitute from the 1950s, when envisioning trans fats. We do need fat in our diets to survive. However, trans fats do not benefit us nutritionally. They are notorious for raising LDL cholesterol levels.
2. Shed a Few Pounds
It is possible to lower cholesterol by 8% just by dropping 10 pounds. If you are just slightly overweight, you can safely and effectively lower your cholesterol by losing 1 or 2 pounds per week. Low and slow is generally considered to be the most effective approach to weight loss. If you can stick to a diet of 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day, mostly comprised of high fiber fruits and vegetables with some lean protein, you should be able to shed those extra pounds.
If you are very overweight or would like help shedding a few pounds, speak with your team of medical professionals to learn about our weight loss program to get the best course of action for lasting results.
3. You Got to “Move It!”
Losing weight will not happen if you lead a completely sedentary lifestyle. You need to move to burn those calories. Start by walking 15 to 30 minutes 5 days a week. From there, work up to incorporating some strength training and cardio into your routine. Again, low and slow is the motto here when starting out.
Exercise gets your heart rate up and your blood flowing. The more oxygenated your blood is, the better it moves through your vessels. Cardio exercise is aptly named for this very reason. According to the NIH, exercise can help lower bad cholesterol.
4. Graze on Fiber
It is no secret that one of the best ways to lower cholesterol is by incorporating more natural fiber into your diet. This does not necessarily mean downing a psyllium shake cocktail every morning. It is far better to get your fiber from your foods if possible.
Increased fiber intake has to be approached with a little caution. Too much fiber can open the intestinal floodgates. Introduce more fiber slowly. Add some gluten-free steel cut oats to your breakfast with some nutritious nuts and fresh berries. Eat a prune or two every other day. Incorporate more high fiber vegetables into your meals, such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli. The added benefit of fiber is that it fills you up so that you are likely to consume fewer calories.
5. Get Your Omega 3s
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for brain and heart health. According to the University of Maryland, populations that consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids tend to have increased HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides. Omega 3s can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, and sardines. Essential fatty acids are also in tree nuts and avocados. It is recommended that you swap out red meat for fish several times a week.
6. Opt for Olive Oil
The Mediterranean Diet is known for promoting heart health and lowering cholesterol. Many cardiologists recommend this diet to their patients. One of the reasons it is so healthy is because it includes extra virgin olive oil as a staple for both cooked and cold food preparations. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
7. Go Nutty
As mentioned previously, nuts are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. They are also high in antioxidants, dietary fiber, and protein. Walnuts and almonds top the list of beneficial nuts to eat in an effort to reduce cholesterol. Eating raw nuts is preferable. Add them to high fiber breakfast porridge or add to salads for crunch. To reduce your consumption of processed grains, try baking bread using nut meal. Here is a good recipe.
Chillax = Chill out and relax. If you are stressed out, you might want to reach for salty snacks to comfort you or want to skip exercise and hit the couch instead. Stress and anxiety can lead to unhealthy habits and an increase in LDL cholesterol. Be mindful of how you are reacting to stressful situations and give yourself permission to take a break. Meditate for 15 minutes, take a walk outside in fresh air, or connect with a friend to catch up over tea.
9. Get Spicy
Many herbs and spices are directly linked to reducing blood cholesterol levels. You can lower cholesterol naturally by jazzing up your food with spices and herbs. There are many loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, cinnamon, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, and turmeric are all heart friendly.
10. Don’t Light Up
Smoking is just not good on any level. Smoking puts you at risk for coronary artery disease. It also lowers HDL cholesterol. According to WebMD cigarette smoking injures the lining of the blood vessels and increases the risk of developing blood clots, which contributes to hardening of the arteries. If you want to raise your good cholesterol, quit smoking.
When does a doctor get mad? “When he runs out of patients!”
Having fun is one of the best ways to lower cholesterol naturally. Go to a comedy show or watch some funny movies or sitcoms. Get together with friends and family who make you laugh. There is some merit to the saying, “laughter is the best medicine.”
Lowering cholesterol naturally is not only doable, but it is also recommended. While some individuals might think they need a statin drug to help, these drugs do come with side effects. It’s recommended to try to reduce your statin medication dose by incorporating some of the suggestions listed here to lower cholesterol.
Schedule Your Cholesterol Screening Test Today!
The first thing you need to do is get a fasting lipid panel blood test. This will measure HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels. You should also get a yearly check-up. Give us a call at one of our ProHealth locations near you to schedule an appointment for lab work and a check-up.