Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the blood and every cell of the body. Total cholesterol has three main constituents: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol; high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol; and triglycerides, a certain type of fat. Some amount of cholesterol is needed to keep the cells and organs healthy. Alternatively, high levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body cause the accumulation of fats in the blood vessels. This plaque may lead to heart attack, stroke, or other health issues.
According to a study conducted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), unhealthy lifestyle choices can cause high levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Additionally, one’s inherited genes, medical conditions like chronic kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, PCOS, menopause, etc., and certain medications may also contribute to high cholesterol. Our previous post discussed these factors contributing to high cholesterol. This post will discuss how to lower your cholesterol.
One could lower the unhealthy blood cholesterol levels by making some lifestyle changes. People with a family history of high cholesterol usually require additional medication or a special procedure, in addition to lifestyle changes.
The following are some natural ways to lower cholesterol levels.
Shifting to heart-healthier food choices: High cholesterol boosts your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. No doubt medications can help improve your cholesterol. However, it is recommended to first try changing your diet. You can do so by:
Engage in physical activities. Engaging in regular physical activity has many benefits. Research has revealed that physical activity can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and increase your “good” HDL cholesterol. Therefore, engaging in some sort of physical activity like walking, biking, swimming, jogging, or using an exercise machine at low speed, is recommended. Those who are new to the exercise regime are advised to take some precautions. Here are few tips:
Exercise alone won’t have much impact on LDL cholesterol unless combined lifestyle changes including variations in dietary patterns and weight loss.
Smoking and chewing tobacco are the major contributors to raising triglyceride levels in the blood. Quitting smoking and chewing tobacco at any stage would always benefit you.
Limit the alcohol intake: According to the American Addiction Centers, regular heavy alcohol intake, which includes wine, beer, hard liquor, or mixed drinks, is associated with higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDLs) and high blood pressure. Additionally, the continuous and prolonged use of alcohol can lead to chronic high cholesterol and can cause damage to the pancreas. Other research revealed that moderate to mild amounts (no more than one 5-ounce serving per day of red wine) are associated with healthy cholesterol levels (3). The key here is to avoid consuming heavily, on a regular basis, to keep your heart healthy.
Get enough sleep: This is one of the toughest things to do in this fast-paced world. However, getting enough quality sleep is required for good health. When you are sleeping, your body is working to maintain a healthy hormone balance that makes you feel hungry or full. Additionally, proper sleep heals and repairs your heart and blood vessels and decreases your risk for chronic health problems. It also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends certain hours of sleep required for various ages.
|Table 1: Recommended hours of sleep in a day for various ages|
|Age||Recommended hours of sleep in a day|
|Babies 4-12 months||12-16 (including naps)|
|Children 1-2 years||11-14 (including naps)|
|Children 3-5 years||10-13 (including naps)|
|Children 6-12 years||9-12|
|Teens 13-18 years||8-10|
|Adults 18 years or older||7-9|
Stress and Cholesterol: Stress, a feeling of emotional or physical tension, can lead to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart attack, and other heart disease risk factors. The research revealed that people who experience more stress at work increase their chances of being diagnosed with high cholesterol (3). Therefore, one should practice stress management strategies to improve mental and physical health. Some strategies include:
Written by Dr. Shikha Sharma, Reviewed by Dr. Harshi Dhingra