People with high cholesterol blood levels must first try to reduce their cholesterol, especially LDL (the bad cholesterol) naturally and without drugs such as statins, by making a few adjustments in their daily routine and adopting certain healthy lifestyles changes.
The aim is to keep off the cholesterol-reducing medication, which can be a lifelong commitment. Secondly, for people who are already on statins, these lifestyle tips will enhance their effect and help lower the dose or if you are lucky, will help you get off them.
Additionally, these cholesterol drugs called statins have their own share of side effects, which include muscle and liver damage, diabetes 2 and neurological side effects.
You, therefore, cannot underestimate the importance of these natural measures.
Another goal these tips will help you achieve is, besides reducing your raised LDL, and the triglycerides, they help to increase HDL, the good cholesterol.
This will significantly reduce your risk of developing serious complications that can occur due to increased cholesterol, which can pack you off straight to the ICU.
Cholesterol, by itself, is essential for the body in view of its important functions. But, you need to keep them within the desirable limits from the age of childhood, in adulthood and during old age.
I also have a post that explains the test levels both in American and the European units.
How long does it take to lower cholesterol and by how much?
A proper diet, exercise, cholesterol lowering supplements and healthy lifestyle alone can help you lower your LDL levels by up to 20% to 40%.
It takes about three to six months to see these changes but in women, it usually takes a bit longer. About 70 percent of individuals with problematic cholesterol levels will respond positively.
However, though statins reduce your raised cholesterol by 60 to 70 percent, doctors will keep them as a last resort and try to normalize your levels and ratios by these natural modifications. For most people, statins will significantly reduce cholesterol within four weeks of starting the drug.
Your doctor will ask you to check your blood every three months to see the effect.
You must also identify the causes that may have raised your blood cholesterol. Doing away with them will boost the beneficial effects of the dietary and lifestyle changes.
Diet and lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol
Having established these encouraging benefits, you must adopt this program that includes a recommended diet and lifestyle modifications as soon as you find that your LDL and triglyceride levels are above the optimal values.
Also known as the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, they have been recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Broadly, following are the recommendations:
- Lose excess weight.
- Eat heart healthy friendly foods.
- Exercise daily.
- Do not smoke.
- Do not drink or drink in moderation.
1) Lose excess weight to lower cholesterol
Raised cholesterol levels and diabetes often co-exist. This can be a double whammy in the diabetics, making them very prone to heart disease. Losing weight and maintaining it at optimum levels is a must especially if you already have diabetes.
If you are overweight or obese, reducing your body mass index (BMI) and weight can lower LDL and maintain it provided your dietary changes are consistent Losing even ten percent of your weight will start showing positive results.
Unfortunately, HDL, levels will also initially fall along with the LDL levels, but later as you maintain your body weight, HDL will begin to rise.
Follow the link below for some effective weight loss tips.
2) Eat a diet of healthy heart-friendly foods
Healthy foods are those foods, which give you complete nourishment, lower your raised cholesterol and protect you from heart diseases.
Incorporate the following foods in your diet to help you keep your cholesterol levels and ratios within the desirable range.
- Whole grains
- Skimmed milk and products
- Canola or olive oils
- Very lean meat without lard
- Chicken without skin
How much cholesterol should you have in a day?
The American government guidelines recommend that the total blood cholesterol levels should be below 200 mg/dL, and LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dL.
On an everyday basis, this translates into an average cholesterol intake of fewer than 300 milligrams per day.
Specific food nutrition as a percentage of your total calorie intake recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health:
Recommended Percentage of Total Calorie Intake
Saturated fat: Less than 7 percent
Polyunsaturated fat: Up to 10 percent
Monounsaturated fat: Up to 20 percent
Carbohydrate: 45 to 65 percent
Soluble fiber: 5 to 10 grams a day
Protein: 10 to 35 percent
Cholesterol: Less than 300 mg
Trans fats: Less than 1 percent
You could read two posts for more detailed information on the dietary foods:
Certain foods contain a high amount of cholesterol. They can negate the impact of these natural efforts you take to bring down your raised cholesterol. Therefore, avoid them.
Trans fats, especially are the worst foods you can eat. They can increase LDL and decrease HDL. Vegetable oils that are partially hydrogenated are the source of about 75 percent of trans fatty acids in the American diet,
3) Exercise daily
Exercising daily has very many tremendous benefits, which extend to all parts of the body. However, aerobics in particular, have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, HDL and triglycerides levels. They also help to improve the health of the heart and that is why they are called cardio exercises.
If you are into strength training, you must also include aerobic exercises in your training program because too much of resistance training alone may reduce your HDL.
The following recommendations advise the following exercise regimen for people with raised cholesterol and those who are a CVD risk.
- Minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week,
- 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise or a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity
Some benefits of regular exercises include:
- Lowers LDL (the bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol).
- Reduces risks or chances of diabetes or helps lower blood sugar if you have diabetes.
- Reduces risk of high blood pressure and lowers it if you have raised blood pressure.
- Helps to control weight.
- Helps prevent certain cancers. (For example, colon cancer.)
- Gives a feeling of well-being.
- Maintains overall health.
- Regular aerobic exercise for about 12 weeks can increase HDL by 5 to 10 percent, maybe more. Your triglyceride level and blood pressure will also respond positively.
4) Do Not Smoke
If you are a smoker, quit the habit. There are various benefits of not smoking. The following are the benefits pertaining to cholesterol and heart.
Quitting smoking will raise your HDL because smoking directly reduces it.
How stopping smoking affects your heart
- 20 minutes after you have stopped smoking, your raised blood pressure starts falling.
- 24 hours after having stopped smoking, your chances or risk of heart attack decrease.
- Within one year, chances of getting a heart attack reduce by 50% compared to what they were when you smoked.
- It takes 15 years to bring down your chances of heart attack to that of a nonsmoker.
5) Drink alcohol in moderation
If you do not drink alcohol, do not start it. But, if you do drink, it is still recommended that you stop drinking. But, if you have to, (whatever the reason) or if you do not have a strong will power, you can drink in limits recommended by the AHA. These recommendations are for typical healthy people on daily basis.
- 2 pegs of 60 ml each can be allowed in men.
- 1 peg of 60 ml can be allowed in women. This is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.
- Two 12-ounce beers for men
- One 12 ounce beer for women.
- Two drinks of 5 oz of wine for men
- One drink for women
This moderate limit has been associated with higher levels of HDL, while the LDL largely stays unaffected.
Drinking more than the limits prescribed above are associated with high blood pressure, stroke and heart diseases. Take your pick.