Cholesterol is a substance produced by our livers and it has various uses in our body. It is a part of cell walls, is used in hormone secretion and much more. However, the production of excess of cholesterol can lead to some serious health issues. So, if you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, this article is to guide you to understand and lower cholesterol naturally.
Possible Complications of High Cholesterol:
High cholesterol in blood causes the settlement of plaque in the arteries. This can lead to:
- Chest pain: When the arteries that carry blood to the heart are clogged, the blood flow is obstructed. As a result, one might feel numbness, pain, pressure or burning sensation in the heart. It is generally called as chest pain.
- Heart Attack: Blockage or a rupture (due to plaque) of an artery carrying blood to the heart can cause heart attacks.
- Stroke: Stroke comes as a result of clogging of arteries that run along the neck and carry blood to the brain. The brain needs oxygen to survive. Stroke cuts of this oxygen supply. When this happens, brain cells start dying in minutes.
Usually, there are no symptoms seen for high cholesterol. But one can take a simple blood test to check their cholesterol levels.
Understanding your cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). While LDL causes plaque formation in arteries by allowing particles to stick to the walls, HDL counters this by collecting the excess cholesterol and taking it back to the liver. So, one can combat high cholesterol by increasing HDL and lowering LDL.
How to lower cholesterol naturally?
If your blood tests show high cholesterol levels, there are two options for you. You can choose to go for medical treatment with tablets and other treatments. While this should be preferred in extreme situations, it is not advisable for others. The second option is to fight it naturally. This is the best option as it comes without any side effects and can improve your overall health.
To lower cholesterol naturally, you have to make the following lifestyle changes:
1. Eat Cholesterol lowering foods
Almost any disease or illness can be cured if we start following a healthy and balanced diet. When you have high cholesterol, foods are rich in monounsaturated fats, soluble fiber and Omega-3 can be very beneficial for you.
Whole grains: Compared to the processed foods, whole grains contain much more nutrients as they are processed the least. It can keep you fuller for longer and can aid in weight loss. But it is the soluble fiber content that makes whole grains one the best warriors against cholesterol.
Oats: Oats actually fall under whole grains. However, they deserve a separate mention under cholesterol-lowering foods because it is the most effective in lowering the LDL levels.
Fatty fish: Fatty fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Substituting other meats with fatty fish like Herring, Salmon, Tuna, Trout and Mackerel can considerably reduce bad cholesterol in the body while increasing good cholesterol. Make sure to bake or grill the fish as it is the most healthy way of cooking.
Nuts: Nuts are power foods that are rich in good cholesterol and other nutrients. This helps in reducing LDL levels. Substituting unhealthy snacks with a handful of nuts will prove very beneficial. Almonds and walnuts are known to good for people with heart problems.
Pulses: Pulses or legumes are great cholesterol-lowering foods as it contains a high amount of protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Used in place of refined grains or to replace meats, can reduce LDL greatly while nourishing your body.
Fruits and vegetables: No good diet is complete without fruits and vegetables. The more colorful ones you eat, the better. They provide vitamins and minerals essential for your body without adding too much to the calorie intake. While all fruits and vegetable are great for you, some require special mention for their cholesterol-lowering properties:
- Dark leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
Other cholesterol-lowering foods include soy, tea, garlic, barley, foods with added sterols and stanols, vegetable oils and whey protein.
2. Reduce weight
Being overweight can increase cholesterol in your body. In general, eating the above said cholesterol-lowering food can help control cholesterol levels. But research has shown that the effect of these foods can be negligible if a person is obese as cholesterol is handled very differently in the bodies of obese people. So, if you are carrying around some extra pounds, do yourself a favor and lose it. Reduce weight by using both diet and exercise as it is the healthiest way to do it.
If you are looking to lower cholesterol naturally, adding some kind of exercise regimen into your schedule is a must. Exercise is proven to help in the increase of good cholesterol levels in the body. Try to exercise five times a week with 30 minutes each day. It could be anything from simple walking to weight training. If you cannot do this, try to be more physically active throughout the day by taking the stairs, walking to the nearby store or riding your bike to work.
What not to do?
To see great results, it is not just enough to incorporate the above steps. It is also important to avoid the following:
- Avoid trans fats (found in food labels as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) as it increases the overall cholesterol levels.
- Reduce the consumption of saturated fats. These are fats found in full-fat dairy products and red meat.
- Quit smoking to improve your good cholesterol levels
- Drink in moderation
- Avoid refined sugars
- Stress can increase cholesterol levels in the body. So, try to reduce your stress.