How to Lower Cholesterol – A Step-By-Step Guide

You need to lower cholesterol levels as too much of it in the wrong places can trigger life-threatening problems. While cholesterol is important for performing several functions, elevated levels of cholesterol can cause serious problems. Your liver is responsible for making cholesterol. It aids in several important functions like aid in making several hormones in the body or keeps the walls of the cells flexible. Like fat, cholesterol is insoluble in water. But, it is transported in your body by lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are responsible for carrying fat as well as fat-soluble vitamins in the blood. Lipoproteins have different effects on your health depending on its type. While LDL can result in cholesterol deposits in the walls of your blood vessels, HDL helps carry cholesterol back to your liver.

So, high LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) can result in clogged arteries. It can lead to health problems like kidney failure, stroke, and heart diseases. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) prevents such diseases. So, it helps keep you healthy. Read ahead to know why and how to reduce high cholesterol (also known as hyperlipidemia).

Symptoms Of High Cholesterol

In the majority of the cases, hyperlipidemia levels trigger no symptoms. It only leads to emergency situations that can impact your life adversely. Due to hyperlipidemia, you can suffer damage to the arteries, which can lead to the following:

These events occur over a period of time until high levels of cholesterol cause plaque formation in the arteries. Cholesterol deposits in your arteries over time and form plaques. These plaques narrow your arteries. So, it becomes difficult for the blood to pass through. The plaque formation transforms the makeup of the arterial lining. Therefore, it results in serious complications. You can detect high cholesterol with blood tests. The total cholesterol levels above 240mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) indicate you need to take action. It is ideal for people to undergo the tests after you turn twenty years old. Rechecking it every four to six years will help you find the problem sooner. While you need to undergo the blood tests more frequently if you experience the following risk factors:

  • Family history of the disease
  • Have a habit of smoking
  • Experience high blood pressure
  • Have excess body weight (obesity or overweight)

What Is The Need To Lower Cholesterol Levels?

lower cholesterol levelsHigh cholesterol levels can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Without medical intervention at the right time, you can suffer from fatal complications. So, people with untreated hyperlipidemia levels can face the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart diseases
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral artery disease

Diagnosing High Cholesterol Levels

In most of the cases, people uncover the high levels of cholesterol during a routine checkup. The majority of people suffering from elevated cholesterol levels are at risk of developing major diseases. So, if you suspect the problem, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor suggests the following tests to determine the underlying cause of the problem conclusively:

Blood Tests

To uncover high levels of cholesterol, your doctor suggests a lipid profile. The blood test can measure total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides levels. Measuring only the total cholesterol alone does not give the proper picture to your doctor. So, the lipid profile is suggested to know your actual issue.

In order to reduce cholesterol, you need to know the actual condition triggering the problem. In the majority of the cases, dietary issues lead to the problem, but, certain medical conditions can also result in hyperlipidemia. So, your doctor checks for the following:

  • Thyroid tests to rule out hypothyroidism as the main cause of fat deposits like triglycerides or cholesterol.
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate tests to detect PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).

Imaging Tests

Medical conditions like PCOS can increase hyperlipidemia in women. So, your doctor orders for imaging tests like pelvic ultrasound to examine the state of your ovaries. It can reveal the presence of cysts.

Skin Biopsy

Certain skin conditions like psoriasis can lead to hyperlipidemia levels. So, performing a skin biopsy can reveal the presence of the inflammatory disease.

Link Between Your Diet And Blood Cholesterol

Your liver produces cholesterol as required by the body. It packs the cholesterol along with VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins). VLDL changes into LDL when it is delivered to the cells throughout the body. LDL is denser in nature and carries cholesterol to the areas that require it. Your liver also produces HDL (High-density lipoprotein), which carries the unused cholesterol in your body back to the liver. The process of transporting the used cholesterol to the liver is called reverse cholesterol transport. So, HDL prevents clogged arteries and subsequent heart problems. The lipoproteins, especially LDL and VLDL are more prone to free radical damage. The free radical can cause chemical reactions like oxidation that harms your body. Therefore, the oxidization of LDL and VLDL can cause reactions that can affect your heart adversely.

You may think the food containing cholesterol causes hyperlipidemia levels in the body. But, it is a misconception. Dietary cholesterol only influences blood cholesterol in a small way. It is because your liver has the ability to change cholesterol production based on what and how much you eat. So, when your body absorbs the cholesterol from your diet, your liver produces it less. But, the food you consume has an important role in raising cholesterol levels. Other factors like sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and family history can also result in the problem. So, to reduce cholesterol levels, your doctor first suggests a change in diet. In most cases, the doctor suggests you include a DASH diet. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension not only lower blood pressure but also improves hyperlipidemia. So, it makes you less susceptible to heart diseases.

Steps To Lower Cholesterol

Steps To Lower CholesterolMaking lifestyle changes is the easiest method to reduce hyperlipidemia. It is the first line of treatment suggested by many doctors. Only when the changes fail to offer results your doctor suggests medications. In most cases, diet and physical activity can offer positive results.

Lifestyle Changes To Lower Cholesterol

As diet and your physical activity are linked to hyperlipidemia levels, you need to make some changes. The dietary changes along with exercise can lower cholesterol levels with ease. So, you need to follow the pointers suggested below:

Focus More On Monounsaturated Fats

When you make dietary changes, it is important to add more monounsaturated fats. It is the dietary fat that is healthy for your body. Monounsaturated fats remain liquid at room temperature while start to harden when the temperature drops (chilled). It has a chemical structure that changes the way it is used in your body. Monounsaturated fats have at least only one double chemical bond. So, it reduces the oxidization of lipoproteins. Consuming monounsaturated fat can prevent heart diseases. Replacing the polyunsaturated fats in your diet with monounsaturated fats can reduce the oxidation of cholesterol and fats. These fats also offer essential nutrients to develop as well as maintains the cells in your body. Monounsaturated fats also contribute Vitamin E to your diet.

In a nutshell, monounsaturated fats enhance overall health. It decreases LDL cholesterol and increases HDL. You can also see a reduction in oxidation by using monounsaturated fats. Some of the foods containing the fat are:

  • Nuts (For example, pecans, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts)
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Butter
  • Avocados

Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Mackerel
Mackerel

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the harmful triglycerides in your blood. Including it in your diet can also lead to a slight improvement in HDL (high-density lipoprotein). You can get the essential omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oils. So, the essential source of omega-3 fats are:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Deep-sea tuna
  • Trout
  • Oysters
  • Crabs

You can get another form of omega-3 fatty known as ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) from some seeds and vegetable oils.

Refrain From Consuming Trans Fats

Hydrogenation (adding hydrogen to vegetable oil) is the process that modifies unsaturated fats into trans-fats. The process makes unsaturated fats more stable. Many industrial products have a longer shelf life due to the use of partially hydrogenated oil in it. So, hydrogenation avoids spoiling of food. Due to hydrogenation. Trans-fat becomes solid at room temperature. You can find trans-fat in many of the products like baked goods, snacks, fried food, creams, and spreads.

Refrain From Consuming Trans Fats

But, partially hydrogenated fats are handled differently by your body. It is the bad kind of fat as it raises the LDL levels and reduces the HDL. So, if you consume a diet rich in trans-fat, it increases your risk of heart disease and other complications. To avoid such issues, you need to read the ingredients of the products on the nutrition label. Stay away from products that contain partially hydrogenated oil.

Add Soluble Fiber In Your Diet

Soluble fiber refers to the group of different compounds in plants. It tends to dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance. It can lower hyperlipidemia as well as your blood glucose levels. Your body cannot break soluble fiber like fats or carbohydrates. But, it breaks down in your intestine with the help of good bacteria called probiotics. It can reduce harmful lipoprotein like LDL and VLDL. Patients who take a statin medication to reduce hyperlipidemia levels can increase the benefits by taking soluble fiber in the diet. So, you can add the following food items in your diet to get soluble fiber:

  • Fruits
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Peas
  • Whole grains
  • Lentils

You can also add fiber supplements like psyllium to get the necessary soluble fiber in the diet. Safe and inexpensive food sources can enhance your health.

Include Exercise In Your Routine

To safeguard your heart health and prevent many lifestyle diseases, you need to include physical activity. Choosing a good workout is essential for maintaining heart health. Exercise not only improves your fitness but also help manage hyperlipidemia. It is because exercise reduces harmful LDL in your body and enhances HDL levels. So, include at least thirty minutes of physical activity for five days a week to see positive changes. Remember, the workout you choose must increase your heart rate. Any type of exercise promotes heart health and improves hyperlipidemia. So, you can include aerobic activity or resistance training in your exercise routine. The longer and more intense the exercise, the greater its benefits.

Reduce Excess Weight

People who are overweight and have hyperlipidemia can see changes when they try to shed excess pounds. The extra pounds can influence your cholesterol levels. So, losing the extra weight can bring down cholesterol levels. Losing as little as five percent of your overall body weight can do wonders to the cholesterol levels. Including exercise and a healthy diet can lower the LDL levels and drop your total cholesterol. When you follow a healthy diet and include physical activity, you get the result similar to taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. When you try to shed excess weight, you can experience double advantages on your cholesterol levels. You reduce the harmful cholesterol while increasing the good cholesterol levels. Weight loss decreases the new cholesterol creation in your liver and influences the total cholesterol levels. But, the results differ from one person to another.

Quit Smoking To Lower Cholesterol

If you picked up the habit of smoking recently or have the habit for a long time, then it is time to quit it completely to reduce hyperlipidemia. You need to keep in mind about your heart health and ditch the bad habit. Are you worried that your smoking has affected your body? Never worry as it is not too late to quit. Your body starts to get back to normal as soon as you quit the habit. Inhaling cigarette smoke can lead to hyperlipidemia and affect your heart health. It also elevates your blood pressure. These factors put extra stress on your heart and result in heart diseases.

Smoking can cause the cells in your immune system to dysfunction. So, they may fail to return the cholesterol from the walls of the vessel to your bloodstream. It results in the clogging of arteries. Tobacco smoke increases LDL levels and triglycerides. It also prevents the increase in good cholesterol that prevents plaque from depositing in your arteries.

Use Alcohol in Moderation

Researchers suggest drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation can raise the HDL (good cholesterol levels). The ethanol in alcohol reduces the risk of clogged arteries. It also prevents heart disease due to reverse cholesterol transport. Moderate alcohol increases the speed of protein transfer in the body. So, it lowers cholesterol as it is removed from the blood and transported back to the liver. But, drinking in excess can have negative effects. It increases cholesterol and triglycerides levels, harms your liver, and causes dependence issues. So, men need to limit alcohol consumption to two drinks a day while women have to restrict themselves to one drink a day.

Consider Plant Sterols and Stanols

Plant sterols refer to the group of substances made in plants. It is used as medicines. You can take substances to reduce hyperlipidemia. It also prevents heart diseases and avoids complications like heart attacks. Stanol esters are naturally occurring compounds in plants that resemble cholesterol. But, they reduce LDL and prevent clogged arteries. You can find sterols and stanols in the following food items:

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetable
  • Legumes
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Vegetable oils

Try To Include Supplements

Certain supplements can improve your hyperlipidemia and make your heart healthy several studies suggest the benefits of using fish oil as well as soluble fiber to prevent heart problems due to high cholesterol levels. You can also use a coenzyme Q10 supplement in your daily life to see the difference.

Manage Stress

Scientists have collected evidence suggesting a direct link between high levels of stress and hyperlipidemia. When you experience stress, you tend to follow unhealthy dietary habits. It leads to excess body weight, which can lead to hyperlipidemia. The condition is common among men. So, you need to manage your stress levels to reduce hyperlipidemia. Managing stress with relaxation techniques lowers the LDL levels and increases the HDL levels.

Medicine To Lower Cholesterol Levels

If lifestyle changes cause no changes to your cholesterol levels, then you need to see your doctor get medications. Your doctor can prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs. Each medication works differently in your body. So, you can experience different results as well as side effects due to taking it. The common medications prescribed for reducing hyperlipidemia are:

Statins

It is the first line of drugs suggested to lower your bad cholesterol (LDL). The medication also lowers the triglycerides and increases HDL levels.

Niacin

Nicotinic acid (Vitamin B) is suggested in high doses to lower the cholesterol levels in the body.

Bile Acid Resin

The medication also known as bile acid sequestrants work inside the intestine. The medication attaches itself to the bile from your liver. So, it refrains it from absorbing the bile back into your blood. As bile consists of cholesterol, the medication reduces the cholesterol supply in your blood.

Fibrates

The type of medication cuts down the triglycerides’ production in your body. It also increases the HDL (good cholesterol) levels.

PCSK9 Inhibitors

It is a type of drug suggested for people who fail to get results with lifestyle changes and statin treatments. In such cases, your doctor suggests taking PCSK9 inhibitors. The drugs block a specific protein (PCSK9), which makes it easier for your body to remove the bad cholesterol from the blood.

Each of the medication has side effects. So, you need to talk to your doctor about the adverse effects caused by the drugs before using them.

Conclusion

Cholesterol is important for your body and its normal function. But, when the levels increase, it can create havoc in your body. The untreated hyperlipidemia can lead to clogged arteries. It puts you at risk of heart disease. So, you need to take steps to lower cholesterol levels. Focus on bringing down low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels as it is prone to free radical damage. So, it is responsible for different types of heart diseases. Try to increase HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) levels as they carry cholesterol away from the heart vessels. When you feel the cholesterol levels are high, see your doctor immediately. You can take some simple steps at home to bring hyperlipidemia under control. If the lifestyle changes fail to show results, then take medications. By managing cholesterol levels, you can prevent severe health complications.

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One Comment

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    Susan M. Poirier

    Gee, you sure know everything, thank you Mia. I like having my mind refreshed on subjects related to taking care of my better health. I can now catch up on my heart health. I am trying to change my lipid panel back to normal. Guess I need more fish now that I live by the Atlantic Ocean.

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