(AscendHealthy.com) – Cholesterol might seem complicated to understand and manage, but there may be easy, drug-free strategies that might make the process simpler. Ideally, doctors want to see our high-density lipoproteins (HDL) score higher than 50 mg/dL, our low-density lipoproteins (LDL) score lower than 100 mg/dL and our total cholesterol score less than 200mg/dL. Let’s look at ways to achieve these results without taking cholesterol-lowering medications or statins in the article below.
HDL vs. LDL, What’s the Difference?
Cholesterol numbers are expressed as:
- “Good” HDL cholesterol
- “Bad” LDL cholesterol
- Total cholesterol
- Non-HDL cholesterol
- Very-low-density lipoprotein or VLDL
Non-HDL cholesterol is total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol, leaving the sum of LDL and VLDL. The liver produces cholesterol based on the body’s needs. Normally, our livers will adjust the amount of cholesterol produced unless we eat more than the amount our bodies need.
A series of studies showed that there was not an increase in total or LDL cholesterol with a moderate dietary increase. The participants of the study added two eggs per day to their diet while the control group had no eggs. Those eating eggs daily, in an otherwise controlled diet, did not see an increase in cholesterol levels. Researchers concluded that those with normal healthy livers eating a healthy, well-balanced diet should have no problem keeping cholesterol in check.
Those whose livers might be compromised or who might have a family history of high cholesterol (cholesterolemia), might experience high LDL levels for no apparent reason. That might result in heart attacks at a young age. In fact, high plasma cholesterol, from any source, might lead to early death due to heart attack, embolism or stroke.
Habits we can develop that might maintain or lower cholesterol if we are otherwise healthy may include:
1. Exercise to Lower Cholesterol
A sedentary lifestyle may lead to higher than average cholesterol or a poor HDL to LDL ratio. Adding daily exercise into your routine may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Exercise might help optimize weight and maintain better liver function.
2. Focus on Fats
There are good fats and bad fats as far as cholesterol is concerned. Good fats include monounsaturated fats, such as those found in the following items:
- Olive oil
- Nuts (but not peanuts)
- Canola oil
- Avocado and avocado oil
The next class of healthy fats are polyunsaturated fats, especially those with omega-3s. These include fish oils found in fatty fishes like salmon, certain types of tuna, mackerel and herring. Besides fatty fishes, other polyunsaturated fats include:
- Seeds, including chia seed, sesame seed and pumpkin seed
- Nuts, excluding peanuts (they are a legume)
Lastly, fats to avoid to help lower cholesterol include trans fats and saturated fats. Eliminate these from your diet wherever possible. One study showed trans fats not only increase total cholesterol and LDL, but they also decrease beneficial HDL by up to 20%. Trans fats and saturated fats include any fats that are solid at room temperature, like shortening, margarine, coconut oil, palm kernel oil and hard fat on animal meats.
3. Increase Soluble Fiber Intake
Eating a diet low in bad fats, moderate in good fats and with a good amount of soluble fiber might lead to better overall cholesterol numbers. Fiber helps move food through and out of the body. Fiber also feeds the probiotics you need to maintain a healthy gut biome to process cholesterol more efficiently. Taking psyllium fiber has been found to work as well as taking a low-dose statin to lower cholesterol, and taking fiber with a statin was found to help the statin work better.
4. Laugh More
Seriously, learning to destress and laugh more is one way to combat cholesterol levels. Stress, in particular, can cause cholesterol levels to go through the roof. Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, an attending cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City says that laughter is like medicine: It increases HDL. Coupled with meditation and other stress-management techniques, this might help keep cholesterol in check.
5. Consider Over-the-Counter Supplements
Taking certain over-the-counter (OTC) supplements may lower cholesterol and benefit other health issues, without having to resort to taking a statin. Supplements that might lower or maintain cholesterol include:
- Fish oil — Omega 3 fish oil supplements may help reduce total cholesterol and reduce LDL.
- Psyllium fiber — This supplement has been found to be effective at lowering cholesterol levels.
- Coenzyme Q10 — Great for heart health, energy and helping keep healthy cholesterol levels. This enzyme may help optimize overall health.
- Plant sterols and stanol ester phytonutrients — These phytonutrients have been shown to lower LDL levels.
- Probiotics — In concert with fiber to optimize gut health, they may lower cholesterol levels.
Note that some of these supplements can interfere with medications, including heart medications, since oils can thin out the blood. Be sure to talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist before using them.
These five drug-free strategies might improve your cholesterol levels. Talk with your healthcare provider about trying these alternatives before starting statin therapy. It might be possible to manage your cholesterol through positive dietary and lifestyle changes, instead.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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