Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood. There are two types of cholesterol. A correct balance between the two is needed for good health.The two types of cholesterol are high-density lipoprotein (HDL)/good cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)/bad cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps remove excess cholesterol from the body, so it is sometimes called “good” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries, so it is referred to as “bad” cholesterol.
If a person’s HDL cholesterol is too low or their LDL is too high, the risk of coronary heart disease increases. Coronary heart disease happens when LDL cholesterol forms a substance called plaque in the arteries of the heart. Over time, this plaque can build up, form a clot, and block the arteries of the heart. This may result in chest pain or a heart attack.
Having high cholesterol usually refers to having too much LDL. High cholesterol has no symptoms, so many people are unaware they have it. People with high cholesterol have about twice the risk of heart disease as those with normal levels.
Lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol
Lifestyle changes and natural supplements may help reduce or control cholesterol levels in many people. The following lifestyle changes have been found to reduce the overall risk of heart disease through lowering blood cholesterol and blood pressure.
30 minutes of exercise a day can reduce the risk of heart disease. Physical activity is a good way to reduce LDL cholesterol and a person’s overall risk of heart disease. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say that people should aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (2.5 total hours per week).
Although 2.5 or more hours per week is best, any amount of exercise can help improve health. If a person has heart disease or other health conditions, safe exercise should be discussed with a doctor before beginning.
Eat a heart-healthy diet
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy are staples of a healthful diet. However, eating good fats is also important for heart health and cholesterol levels.
A person’s diet should include mostly unsaturated fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils. These unsaturated fats can improve heart health and lower cholesterol levels.
Saturated fats, found in many fatty animal products and processed foods, should be limited to less than 10 percent of daily calories.Trans fats found in some packaged and fried foods should be avoided as there is no safe amount. These fats can increase the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
Achieve a healthy weight
Being overweight can put someone at greater risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. Losing even 5 to 10 percent of body weight has health benefits. Regular exercise and a healthful diet can help lose body fat and, as a result, lower a person’s cholesterol levels. People should choose to eat foods rich in nutrients and avoid high-calorie, empty-nutrient junk food.
Natural supplements for high cholesterol
Though some natural supplements are marketed to combat high cholesterol, only a few have been studied adequately.
Aged garlic extract
Garlic extract may help lower blood cholesterol and is generally well tolerated by the body.Garlic has been used medicinally since ancient times, and it may help with lowering blood cholesterol. A paper in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine points to a review of 39 trials that showed aged garlic extract could reduce total cholesterol and LDL.
A study in the Journal of Nutrition affirms this, stating that aged garlic extract reduced total cholesterol and LDL by 7 and 10 percent, respectively. Garlic is well tolerated, but people should discuss taking garlic supplements with their doctors.
*Adapted from MedicalNewsToday
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