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Tips on Lowering Cholesterol

February 10, 2012

There are three fundamental ways to lower cholesterol:

  • Take drugs like statins;
  • Diet;
  • Exercise.

Statins and their use is beyond the scope of this website and we favour natural preventative measures which can control cholesterol levels BEFORE they get out of hand.  We do know that statins have some side effects like  liver toxicity and muscle weakness amongst others.  So we are going to confine this article to what we control naturally before things get out of hand.

We have seen before on this blog how high levels of cholesterol can have negative effects on the heart and, generally, high levels are bad for cardiovascular health.  Remember the “Silver Bullet” analogy we use frequently on this blog….well the same goes here.  The approach should be holistic and touch on every aspect of your lifestyle.  Just doing one thing or eating one food type out of the list below is not going to work.

Cholesterol:

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells and found in certain foods, like eggs and meat.

Cholesterol, in small amounts, is necessary to maintain some systems functioning properly. For example cell walls need cholesterol in order to produce hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat.  Too much Cholesterol will manifest itself as health problems such as heart disease.

Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Cholesterol at high levels can produce plaques (hard deposits) in the arteries thus narrowing the space for blood to flow to the heart. This buildup causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which can lead to heart disease.

If there is not enough blood reaching the heart this can cause chest pain (angina).  If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off the result is a heart attack. Normally this closure is due to a blood clot forming on top of a narrowing.

Types of Cholesterol

Cholesterol travels through the blood attached to a protein and is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins can be classified as high density (HD), low density (LD), or very low density (VLD), and depends the ratio of protein to fat.

  • Low density lipoproteins (LDL): LDL, is “bad” cholesterol and can cause plaque deposits on the walls of arteries. There is a direct corelation with the level of  LDL in the blood to the risk of heart disease.
  • High density lipoproteins (HDL): HDL, is “good” cholesterol and helps the body get rid of bad cholesterol in the blood.
  • Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL): VLDL is similar to LDL cholesterol in that it contains mostly fat and not much protein.
  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are types of fat that are carried in the blood by very low density lipoproteins. Excess calories in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.

How can Cholesterol be controlled?

Exercise:

Scientists are not sure how physical exercise reduces cholesterol but it seems the main factor is the loss of weight. Weight loss is usually associated with LDL which is linked to heart disease and as we see above is BAD CHOLESTEROL.

Recent research has demonstrated that exercise stimulates enzymes that help move LDL from the blood (and blood-vessel walls) to the liver. From there, the cholesterol is converted into bile (for digestion) or excreted. So the more you exercise, the more LDL your body expels!. So you create a win-win of losing weight and lowering cholesterol at the same time!

How Much Exercise Does It Take To Lower Cholesterol?

Depends.

However, a 2002 study  showed that more intense exercise is actually better than moderate exercise for lowering cholesterol.  The key is to keep moving and take  some exercise whenever you can: do the garden, walk or cycle instead of taking the car.  Try to plan in time to go to the pool and swim.  Play with the kids or take up a new sport.  Join the gym and get proper advice and an exercise plan.  All this will help.  You will see the weight drop off and at the same time cholesterol will be lowered.  Which brings us to the second point – diet….there is no point in exercising if other aspects of your life are not helping the Cholesterol-fighting cause.  There are some subtle ways that diet can help to combat the wrong type of cholesterol.

Diet:

Eat less Cholesterol

Certain foods are not going to help. We recomment a balanced healthy diet high in vegetables and fruit.  Certain foods are high in cholesterol….eat them seldom or not at all.

Oats

The natural, soluble fibre in Oats is called beta glucan and is proven to lower cholesterol by absorbing bile acids and bile salts in the intestines and carrying them out of the body.
Bile acids and bile salts are produced via a mechanism involving cholesterol metabolism and their removal from the body directly stimulates the removal of cholesterol from the blood.

This is due to the structure of beta glucan, which has binding sites for bile acids.

The body of research to support the beneficial effects of oat beta glucan in reducing cholesterol levels is so strong that health claims for this purpose have been approved by many health regulation bodies around the world, including the FDA, Health Canada and EFSA.

Plant Stanols

Plant stanols, like Benecol, function by partially obstructing the uptake of cholesterol in the gut, so less gets absorbed into your blood stream.

Herbs/Spices

We have seen in this blog our certain natural herbs can also help to control weight and help to digest lipids/fats and these include:

Blueberries

Certain fruits may also help to control cholesterol levels.  In an animal model system Blueberries were shown to reduce cholesterol levels.  Flavonoids in blueberries (and also present in herbs/spices) may be the functional element which gives blueberries their anti- cholesterol effect.

Vitamins

Taking the right level of vitamins is going to be a good for general overall health. However, Manganese, B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, are known to lower the risk of heart disease.  Vitamin E, or alpha-tocopherol and other forms, seem to particularly potent in regulating cholesterol levels.

Grapes

Red grapes are high in polyphenols that protect against both cancer and heart disease.  Compounds in red grape juice can lower cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors. Drinking just 100 ml a day- even from the frozen concentrate- can lower LDL levels. Other red fruit, such as pomegranates, may have the same effect.

Fish

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids,  found in fish (amongst others food types), can reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death. Some scientists also believe that omega-3 fatty acids improve the blood lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels and decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.

Others….and Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice has also been shown to lower cholesterol.  We will keep you updated as more food types and natural ingredients are added to this list.

Useful reading:

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One Comment leave one →
  1. sweetopiagirl permalink
    February 11, 2012 12:42 am

    Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss.

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