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Cholesterol: 9 strategies to help you reduce it
November 1, 2021
Not all cholesterol is bad. Learn how to enhance the good part of the substance and thus take care of your heart and your arteries.
Last update: November 01, 2021
The strategies that will help you reduce cholesterol are varied and aim to keep this biochemical parameter within normal ranges. Beyond the pharmacological options, here we will focus on the natural options.
Cholesterol is not a substance that we must eliminate from the body. Quite the opposite. It is part of the tissues, the cell membranes of the human body and is required for hormone production.
Without this fat we could not live. But its excess in the blood has been associated with some pathologies. That is why it is important to implement accessible strategies that will help you lower your cholesterol.
Is cholesterol bad for your health?
As we already anticipated, cholesterol is vital for the functions of the body. What is intended to control is its blood value in the different forms of presentation it has.
Because there is not just one type of cholesterol. That which we know as total cholesterol it is the sum of all of them, but there is also HDL and LDL. Similarly, a variant less known to the general public is VLDL.
HDL is cholesterol well. Its acronym in English is due to the expression high density lipoprotein. It is considered beneficial because it transports fats from the arterial walls to the liver, removing them from the circulation and preventing their accumulation in the form of atheroma plaques.
LDL is cholesterol bad. Its acronym in English is due to the expression low density lipoprotein. Much attention is paid to it because it would be linked to the deposit of fats in the arteries. However, recent studies give more importance to VLDL or very low density lipoprotein. This oxidized form of fat would represent a greater cardiovascular risk.
Cholesterol and diet
These new advances and interpretations regarding the role of cholesterol in health are important. For some years we have known that cholesterol in food has very little influence on blood levels of the substance.
In fact, it is speculated that oxidation is the real responsible for the havoc within the human body. LDL and VLDL are more susceptible to free radical damage, resulting in more unstable and more damaging molecules.
So what we can do is implement strategies to reduce cholesterol that come from lifestyle changes and that prioritize some foods over others. All of them should tend to reduce the oxidation process of LDL and VLDL.
That is, we do not seek to ingest less cholesterol with food, but rather focus on healthy fats, avoiding unhealthy ones. In the same way, we will opt for habits that have already been shown to protect cardiovascular health.
Strategies to Help You Lower Your Cholesterol
We are going to describe 9 strategies that are useful to reduce blood cholesterol and keep it within normal levels. As we anticipated, in terms of diet, you will not consider eating less fat, but choosing healthy fats.
These strategies have scientific studies to support them and are part of a lifestyle that protects the heart and arteries. Taken together, they will reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
1. Don’t eat trans fats
When fats are hydrogenated, in a chemical process, they become trans. This means that the spatial conformation of the molecules changes.
The food industry is full of trans fats, since they serve the manufacturing process of multiple products that are sold in the markets. Butters, for example, need them to be stable and solid.
The problem is that, when we consume trans fats, our LDL cholesterol or bad increases. At the same time, HDL reduces its concentration.
The strategy will be to read the nutrition label well. There we will find out if there are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. They are the terms that describe the trans molecules that we want to avoid.
Too cooking methods that are not thermally aggressive should be chosen at home. Instead of frying, prefer the oven or the steam. This prevents the formation of trans fats as well.
2. Eat healthy fats
Fats are not all bad. Certain commercials of years have given a negative value to all and this is not the case completely.
Monounsaturated fats could have a beneficial effect within the human body. Its regular consumption is capable of reducing blood LDL cholesterol without affecting HDL. This would happen, in part, because they prevent oxidation.
And where to find monounsaturated fats? In the extra virgin olive oil, in the nuts and the avocado.
3. Focus on the fiber
The intestinal microbiota, which is the set of microorganisms that live in the human digestive tract without affecting us, can reduce the oxidation of fats. But for that we need these bacteria to be fine.
The consumption of soluble fiber stimulates the healthy proliferation of the microbiota. But not only that. It also delays the absorption of some substances so that they do not pass immediately into the blood and improves the effect of statins that are prescribed for people with high cholesterol.
You can find soluble fiber in peas, lentils, almost all fruits, and oats. There are commercial preparations with fiber supplements, such as psyllium, which can be considered.
4. Omega 3
Much is said and studied about omega 3. Fish and nuts have it in an appreciable quantity.
Omega 3 is a type of polyunsaturated fat. Various investigations in recent years associate it with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, as it would reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Other benefits that are considered and are being demonstrated have to do with type 2 diabetes. The inclusion of omega 3 in the diet of diabetics helps regulate blood glucose levels.
5. No smoking
In addition to all the negative effects of tobacco on the human body, we have to add its action on cholesterol. This is explained because smokers are less able to clean their arteries.
In them, once the cholesterol has been deposited on the walls of the vessels, it is difficult to remove by the cells that would be in charge of doing it. Thus, smokers have a high prevalence of pathologies linked to obstruction of circulation.
6. Do not drink alcohol in excess
Alcohol is another strategy for lowering cholesterol that is discussed on a scientific level. The recommendation of a glass of wine with meals to protect the heart has been questioned.
Studies suggest that a specific dose of alcohol increases cholesterol well. That dose is about 24 grams, but it depends on the strength of each drink being considered.
Anyway, when there is an excess of alcohol consumption, the liver suffers. And in the liver is the key to cholesterol metabolism.
The benefits of physical exercise for health are multiple. It positively affects mood, reduces stress, improves anxiety control, prevents sarcopenia, slows down aging, increases cardiorespiratory capacity and prevents metabolic diseases.
Aerobic exercise combined with strength exercise seems the best option. Walking is already positive, but it is becoming increasingly clear that an increase in intensity and execution time improves benefits.
Perhaps the most notable effect of this strategy on cholesterol is the increase in the HDL variant. However, this is perceived when physical exercise is performed at an intensity that allows us to reach 85% of our maximum heart rate.
8. Reduce body weight when we are overweight
Overweight and obesity are cardiovascular risk factors. People with these diseases often have high levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
When they start a diet regulated and adapted by professionals to reduce their extra kilograms, also cholesterol bad decreases. It is a double way to have less risk of heart attacks and strokes.
At the same time, exercise is a strategy that helps reduce weight and harmful cholesterol. Therefore, there is a synergy to take care of the heart.
One of the most effective mechanisms of consistent weight loss diets is that they prevent the body from making new cholesterol. Therefore, it uses reserves to produce energy, removing harmful rusty forms from circulation.
9. Add supplements if your doctor authorizes it
The pharmaceutical industry has developed supplements to incorporate daily. Some of them would have an effect on cholesterol.
In any case, this strategy deserves to be considered within the framework of a healthy diet. That is, it is preferable that the substances are incorporated with the diet, unless a health professional recommends adding them artificially.
Omega 3, which we mentioned at the beginning, can be purchased in the form of fish oil. On the other hand, more and more attention is being paid to coenzyme Q10. This substance shows promise for lowering LDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol-lowering strategies depend on consistency
These 9 strategies to help you lower your cholesterol should be combined. None is magic on its own nor do they have an immediate effect on all people.
In addition, it is essential to sustain them over the years. Implementing a diet or doing physical exercise for 3 months and then abandoning it will not have noticeable effects.
Consult a trusted doctor if you have doubts. All of these cholesterol-lowering strategies can be enhanced if you know your blood values and get advice from a professional.
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About The Author
Catherine A. Johnson