A high level of LDL cholesterol in the blood increases the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes. LDL (low-density) cholesterol is harmful, while HDL (high-density) cholesterol is actually beneficial. Doctors recommend certain lifestyle and diet changes to keep LDL levels low in order to reduce the chance of health problems and promote a healthier lifestyle.
While statin-based drugs are extremely effective for those experiencing advanced complications of high cholesterol and heart disease, there are a number of lifestyle changes that people at lower risk of heart attacks can implement to improve their LDL levels. Statin drugs are often associated with uncomfortable side effects such as weakness and muscle pain. To find out which methods are best for you, be sure to consult your doctor.
Eating to Reduce LDL
It doesn’t take drastic dietary changes to make a significant positive impact on your cholesterol level. Vitamins, minerals and compounds to increase to lead to lower LDL levels include omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins C, E and B.
Reduce or eliminate harmful fats from the foods you eat, substituting olive oil for butter and other oils, choosing oil-free methods of cooking such as boiling, steaming and grilling, using yogurt in place of sour cream and choosing lower fat milk products. Add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your menu. Choose high-quality and lean sources of protein such as beans, fish, chicken breast, turkey breast and tofu. Avoid beef, which is very high in cholesterol, and processed sweets and snacks, which contain refined oils and hydrogenated fats that lead to increased LDL levels. Above all, stay away from anything fried.
Good Dietary Choices
Nuts and Seeds
Oils found in seeds and nuts are extremely beneficial, but as with all sources of healthy fats, should be consumed in moderation and ideally in raw or minimally-processed forms (such as lightly salted). Almonds are excellent choices, as are walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts and pistachios, which all contain high quantities of polyunsaturated fats that help to maintain cardiovascular health. Remember that our bodies absolutely require fat to operate, especially the brain and circulatory system.
One of the healthiest oils to include in your diet is olive oil, which is not only tasty, but loaded with beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants. It can be used in place of butter and almost any cooking oil, and can also be infused with spices and garlic for a simple and delicious dressing for salads and pasta. Olive oil is also rich in HDL (good) cholesterol and other compounds that keep the cardiovascular system flexible and healthy.
Pumpkinseed oil is another alternative to lower LDL levels while keeping HDL levels at optimal levels.
Spices and Flavorings
It has long been known that natural compounds found in spices promote good health. Capsaicin, found in peppers, has been proven through clinical studies to lower LDL cholesterol, as have flavorful vegetables in the onion family. Other cholesterol-lowering spices to include in your recipes for cardiovascular health are ginger, fenugreek, cumin and turmeric.
Artichokes are powerful edible tools in the fight against high LDL cholesterol, and also happen to be delicious. Artichoke tea made from any part of the artichoke plant actually reduces the amount of cholesterol in the blood, rather than causing the liver to produce less, and can have long-term effects on blood cholesterol levels.
Supplements and Additions
As with all natural supplements, it is strongly advised to consult your doctor before beginning any new nutritional regimen to make sure that it is right for your body, and also that there is no risk of interactions with other medications. It is important to carefully follow all directions for taking supplements.
Causes the body to absorb less cholesterol from food and helps to increase levels of good cholesterol.
Sterols can be found in many fruits and vegetables, but a high enough quantity must be eaten in order for it to have LDL-lowering effects. Supplements can make it easy for you to get enough of these beneficial compounds.
Extracted from waxes found naturally in plants, this supplement helps maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system, and also regulates the liver’s manufacture of cholesterol. It is possible to take this supplement in addition to statin drugs and red rice yeast, as directed by your doctor.
Red Rice Yeast
This natural plant extract contains sterols, isoflavones and healthy fats, all which promote a healthy body and heart. But it also contains monacolin K, which has a powerful lowering effect on LDL or bad cholesterol in just a handful of weeks.
Derived from fruit of the citrus variety, this highly-effective antioxidant has cholesterol-lowering properties and is particularly effective for people with moderately high blood cholesterol levels.