For everyone, having a normal cholesterol level spells good health. Cholesterol has always been associated with health risks so there is a need to lower cholesterol naturally or through medicine. For a person with cholesterol levels way beyond the normal, ways to decrease the levels should be practiced immediately. If you intend to lower cholesterol naturally, it is highly achievable. However, doing so requires determination and persistence. You should religiously follow a cholesterol lowering programme. People who want to lower cholesterol naturally are often those who do not want any synthetic medication inside their body. Some synthetic medicines have side effects that many patients do not want to experience. These synthetic medications do not work for everyone; hence, natural means could be good alternatives.
What is high cholesterol?
In some people, cholesterol levels in blood become too high. This is called high cholesterol or hyperlipidemia. High levels of LDL cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol) are considered a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. LDL cholesterol is thought to irritate the lining of blood vessels, stimulating atherosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries.Although lowering LDL cholesterol and raising levels of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) has traditionally been the focus, factors related to free radical damage are drawing increased attention:
- Lipoprotein A is a relative of LDL cholesterol. It’s thought to be formed when there is free radical damage. Lipoprotein A may adhere to damaged blood vessels, eventually forming atherosclerotic plaques.
- Oxidized cholesterol is found in large amounts in fried and processed foods. Studies have found that oxidized cholesterol may increase the amount of atherosclerotic deposits on blood vessel walls.
High cholesterol is usually treated based on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol levels, plus the presence of additional risk factors for heart disease such as:
- Previous heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Low HDL cholesterol
- Family history of early heart disease
- Age over 45 in men and greater than 55 in women
What can you do to lower cholesterol?
There are several foods that have been discovered to lower cholesterol levels. These foods cover a wide variety, ranging from red wines to walnuts. Most of these foods are relatively healthy for you and can be located in the food pyramid. Just remember, as with anything, moderation is the key to good health!
You may know what foods to avoid to keep your levels of “bad cholesterol” in check – no mounds of butter on your bread, or ice cream for dessert every night — but what are some foods you should be including in your diet to ensure a healthy heart? Here are the top “superfoods” that can lower your cholesterol:
Many studies have found that increasing the dietary intake of oat products — as well as legumes and other high-fiber foods — can play a significant role in decreasing “bad cholesterol” (LDL) levels. Soluble fibre seems to help reduce LDL levels by grabbing onto the cholesterol and eliminating it from the body through the digestive system. Some excellent fiber-rich choices besides oatmeal and oat bran include beans, barley, apples and prunes.
The great news is that it doesn’t take 10 servings of a fiber-rich food to do your heart good – as little as one-half cup of cooked dry beans per day helped lower total cholesterol levels of the study participants.
Sterol- and Stanol-fortified Foods
Recent research indicates that sterols and stanols — natural substances found in many plants, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds — can significantly reduce LDL levels by blocking cholesterol absorption and preventing it from getting into the bloodstream.
Sterols and stanols are naturally found in small amounts in many plants. In addition, some margarines are fortified with sterols or stanols plus many cholesterol lowering supplements contain them.
Wild salmon, sardines and anchovies are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Considerable research links these “healthy fats” to various health benefits. They not only reduce LDL levels, but they help lower high blood pressure and cut cardiovascular risk. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may also raise levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL), which helps ferry bad cholesterol to the liver, where it can be eliminated from the body.
It is recommended that healthy adults with no history of heart disease should consume at least two servings of baked or grilled fatty fish each week. As for those who don’t eat fish, try soybeans, seeds or nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids from nuts (such as walnuts) and seeds (such as flaxseed) had as much impact on blood pressure as omega-3 fatty acids from fish. But watch the intake of nuts, which are high in calories. Just a handful a day is enough to provide benefits for the heart.
Research has also shown that it’s important to cut down on saturated fat and trans fats. Trans fats are listed in the “nutrition facts” on food labels; they can also be found in the product’s list of ingredients, marked as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” fats or oils.
Try to replace these unhealthy fats with healthier monounsaturated fats, as found in extra virgin olive oil, as well as canola oil, avocados, peanuts and tree nuts. Doing so can help lower your LDL and raise your HDL levels.
But even “good” fats should be eaten in moderation because all types of fat contain more than twice the calories of proteins or carbohydrates.
Beans are known to contain special soluble fiber which ferments in the colon. The healthy bacteria eat the said soluble fiber the sugar content of the beans transform into short-chain fatty acids. These travel going towards the liver and act to hold back LDL cholesterol production and lower cholesterol naturally.
Supplements for High Cholesterol
A few tips on using natural products to lower cholesterol: Talk with your nutritionist/health professional or doctor before starting any natural method to lower cholesterol. Make your doctor knows what supplements you are taking and don’t discontinue any medication to lower cholesterol unless you have spoken with your doctor or specialist.
1) Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin, also called vitamin B3, is used to lower cholesterol. Specifically, it appears to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.
Well-designed studies have found that niacin lowers LDL cholesterol by approximately 10%, lowers triglycerides by 25%, and raises “good” HDL cholesterol by 15% to 30%. Niacin also appears to significantly lower levels for another risk factor for atherosclerosis, lipoprotein A.
Niacin is available in prescription form and as a dietary supplement.
Because of side effects, niacin should not be used to lower cholesterol unless under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.
Niacin can increase the effect of high blood pressure medication or cause nausea, indigestion, gas, diarrhoea, gout, and worsen peptic ulcers, or trigger gout, liver inflammation, and high blood sugar. The most common side effect of high-dose niacin is skin flushing or hot flashes, which is caused by widening of blood vessels. Most people only notice this when they initially start taking niacin. The flushing may be lessened by taking niacin with meals.
2) Artichoke Leaf
There is some research suggesting that artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymnus) may help to lower cholesterol.
Artichoke leaf extract may work by limiting the synthesis of cholesterol in the body.
Artichokes also contain a compound called cynarin, believed to increase bile production in the liver and speed the flow of bile from the gallbladder, both of which may increase cholesterol excretion.
3) Soluble Fibre
Soluble fibre appears to reduce LDL cholesterol by reducing cholesterol absorption in the intestines. Soluble fibre binds with cholesterol so that it is excreted.
Soluble fibre can be found as a dietary supplement, such as psyllium powder, or in foods such as:
- Oats, barley, rye
- Legumes (peas, beans)
- Some fruits such as apples, prunes, and berries
- Some vegetables, such as carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, yams
Five to 10 grams a day of soluble fiber has been found to decrease LDL cholesterol by approximately 5%.
4) Plant Sterols and Stanols
Plant stanols and sterols (such as beta-sitosterol and sitostanol) are naturally-occuring substances found in certain plants. Stanols are also found as dietary supplements or are added to margarine.
Research suggests that plant stanols and sterols may help to lower cholesterol. They are similar in structure to cholesterol and may help block the absorption of cholesterol from the intestines.
Studies have found that stanols significantly reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, but had no significant effect on HDL cholesterol or triglycerides.
Do Phytosterols Really Lower Cholesterol?
There have been many studies that have examined the cholesterol-lowering abilities of phytosterols. Several studies have indicated that up to two grams of phytosterols per day can lower low-density lipoproteins LDL) by 10 percent. This amount would roughly equal to 1 teaspoon of the extract, or one tablespoon of a spread containing phytosterols.
High-density lipoproteins HDL and triglycerides do not appear to be affected by phytosterols. Additionally, it only takes one to two weeks to see the cholesterol-lowering results of phytosterols. During these studies, individuals were either placed on a low fat diet or maintained the diet they had before the study.
5) Other supplements include Red Yeast rice, Coenzyme Q10 and green tea
6) Cholererol lowering herbs.
These include garlic, cinnamon, ginger, bilberry, elecampane, hawthorn, Motherwort, Yarrow, Siberian ginseng…
Exercise and its role in lowering cholesterol
Never undersetimate the value of getting enough physical activities. This speeds up blood flow in the arteries, thus preventing cases of clogging. If possible, aim for 10,000 steps a day. If you manage to get exercise regularly you will more easily lower cholesterol naturally.
Contact Sheena Hendon Health to find out which lifestyle and dietary changes and supplements may be right for you