You may be able to lower you cholesterol enough so that you don’t need medication, or can take a lower dose of medication. Your healthcare professional will consider your overall health and risk factors to determine whether natural options, medication, or a combination of both will be the best choice for your situation. However, making these lifestyle chances are likely to be good for your overall health.
Make dietary changes
Dietary changes are the first step your doctor will have you take when attempting to reduce your cholesterol. Reducing saturated fat is the most important dietary change you can make. These types of fats should be limited to no more than 5%-6% of your total calories, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Foods to avoid
To cut down on saturated fats, limit the amount of animal products you eat, such as beef, pork, and poultry with the skin on. Whole-fat dairy products also contain a good deal of saturated fat.
Cutting down on trans fats can also help your cholesterol levels, since they raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol. These fats are found in packaged baked goods and many margarines.
Another dietary culprit is added sugars and high carbohydrate snack foods, which are not only high in calories, but can also cause your body to produce more cholesterol and triglycerides that end up in your bloodstream. Make a habit of reading dietary food labels on packaged products you buy for added sugars.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 100 calories a day for most women and 150 for men—yet consumption today averages about 360 calories a day for most Americans.
Beverages are one of the highest sources of added sugar, especially fruit drinks, sodas and sports drinks.
Eat These Foods
Load up on foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These have a lot of fiber, which can help lower your cholesterol. They also contain phytosterols (plant sterol and stanol esters). Phytoserols lower LDL by blocking your body’s absorption of cholesterol. In addition to the small amounts found in vegetables, fruits and some vegetable oils, other sources for phytosterols include cholesterol-lowering margarines. They can also be found in some fortified orange juices, granola bars and low-fat cheeses.
Fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. Just make sure to have them broiled, not fried.
Try eating foods with unsaturated fats, which are sometimes called “smart” fats. These can help lower cholesterol levels, and when consumed in moderation, lower your risk of heart disease. Sources include olive or canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Look for soy protein sources to replace saturated-fat proteins. Soy protein has been shown to lower LDL and triglycerides, and is present in tofu, tempeh and soy milk. Fresh soybeans (edamame) are delicious steamed, and another good source of fiber.
Get more exercise
Exercise is also a good way to lower cholesterol naturally as well as improve your overall health. It will help control your weight, which is important since excess weight increases your cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can lower your LDL and even raise your HDL by up to ten percent.
The key to achieving these benefits is regular, moderate exercise. Start by exercising for 30 to 40 minutes three days a week, and build your way up to five or even seven days. Walking, swimming, or taking a dance class are good choices.
There are plenty of good reasons to stop smoking, including lowering your cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. Smoking lowers your levels of good cholesterol. It’s a risk factor for heart disease, and so is high cholesterol, so it’s particularly important to stop if you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol.
Ask your doctor about making lifestyle changes to try to lower cholesterol naturally. He or she can help advise the best ways to go about it and can help make sure your efforts are lowering your cholesterol to your target range.