Myth #: The Only Way To Lower Cholesterol Is With Medication
Wrong again. First, think about WHY cholesterol goes up? There are some people who have genetically high cholesterol, but they are the minority. For most people it is about lifestyle. Since cholesterol is used as a raw material to make the stress hormone cortisol, too much ongoing stress will prompt the liver to make more cholesterol to support your hormones. The other big cause is the foods you are eating. A diet filled with processed flour, sugar, saturated fat, and lots of animal foods like dairy will increase cholesterol. Fixing your food by eating a plant based diet filled with fiber, plant sterols, and essential fatty acids is the best way to lower cholesterol andget the antioxidants needed to keep the cholesterol you do have from getting sticky and making plaque. Of course, taking fiber, fish oil, and plant sterol supplements will help, but nothing works better than actually changing the food you eat.
Q: Are There Medicines I Can Take To Help Reverse Heart Disease
Dr. Tam: For adults who already have coronary artery disease, doctors usually recommend aspirin or statin medicines.
- Aspirin has blood-thinning properties and can help prevent blood clots.
- Statins are medicines that lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and stabilize existing plaque so it is less likely to rupture and cause a blood clot.
In certain people who dont have known heart disease, statins may also help reduce the risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.
Goals For Your Cholesterol Levels
It’s best to keep your total cholesterol level below 200. Women of any age should have an HDL level of 40 or higher.
If you already have heart disease or diabetes, or your doctor estimates that your 10-year risk of heart disease is 20 percent or higher, try to keep your LDL level below 100.
If you do not have heart disease or diabetes, but you have two major risk factors, try to keep your LDL cholesterol level below 130. Major risk factors are age over 55 cigarette smoking high blood pressure low HDL a father or brother with heart disease before age 55, or a mother or sister with heart disease before age 65.
If you have fewer than two major risk factors, try to keep your LDL level below 160.
When Should My Cholesterol Levels Be Tested
Your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini stroke , or peripheral arterial disease
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition
- are overweight
How Long Does It Take To Reduce Cholesterol
Cholesterol drops over time, not suddenly, after a few days of healthier living. There is no set period in which cholesterol is guaranteed to drop.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs usually produce a change in LDL within 6 to 8 weeks. It is possible for lifestyle changes to change cholesterol levels within weeks. However, it may take longer,
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter
- LDL bad cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL good cholesterol: higher than 60 mg/dL
- Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL
According to an article in the journal , the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommend using statins to lower cholesterol in people with cholesterol higher outside of these levels.
However, they also recommend doctors consider a persons cholesterol levels and overall risk of cardiovascular disease before prescribing a cholesterol-lowering medication.
The AHA recommends that people with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease get high-intensity statin therapy maximally tolerated statin therapy to lower LDL by at least 50%.
The AHA also recommends high-intensity statin therapy for individuals with severe primary hypercholesterolemia .
There are a number of habit changes a person can incorporate into their daily routines in order to gradually and consistently lower their LDL levels over time. Including:
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Can Exercise Help To Lower Cholesterol
Yes it can. Getting your blood pumping by doing exercise will reduce your cholesterol. Being active helps your body move the bad cholesterol to your liver where it can be removed out of your system.
You dont have to join a gym or go on long runs if you dont enjoy it, just look for chances to move more every day. Many people find that being active improves their mood so they make healthier food choices. You could try:
- taking the stairs instead of the lift
- a brisk walk instead of a slow walk
- doing two-minute bursts of jumping jacks several times a day
- yoga or pilates if you cant get out
- our exercises to do if youre stuck at home.
Raise Your Hdl Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol takes the LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver where it can be passed out of the body. High levels of HDL seem to protect against cardiovascular disease.
Low HDL: less than 40 mg/dl
- Greater than 55 mg/dl for women, greater than 45 mg/dl for men the higher the HDL level, the better.
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Well, that depends on the definition of reversed. If it means the disease goes away, then no it is not reversed. If is means the need to use medication to control blood sugar is reduced or eliminated, then yes. The explanation is found in the basic pathophysiology of DMT2, the hallmark of which is insulin resistance.
This creates an internal environment that requires the pancreatic bata cells to work very hard to produce enough insulin to feed those resistant cells. Beta cells can produce enough inulin for a while but once blood sugar levels are rising above normal, a good percentage of those cells have worked themselves to death.
They cannot be revived. If, before that happens, insulin resistance is reduced, remaining beta cells can continue health and viable for sometime, although T2, to date, tends to be progressive.
Lifestyle changes resulting in weight management and increased well being are very effective in the treatment of early DMT2 because the pressure on the beta cells becomes more manageable. If changes are not made before beta cell demise, then medication is likely necessary for life.
What About Medications To Help Lower My Risk For Heart Disease
Medications are available for lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, but these medications work best when lifestyle changes have already been made. There is evidence that certain medicines called statins can slow the process of both chronic kidney disease and heart disease. These drugs are used to lower high cholesterol levels in the blood, helping slow down the progression of chronic kidney disease.
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Add These Foods To Lower Ldl Cholesterol
Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
1. Oats. An easy first step to lowering your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber.
2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.
3. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.
4. Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.
How Can Foods Help Lower Cholesterol
People can often reduce their cholesterol levels dramatically by changing the foods they eat. Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterolfound in meat, dairy products, and eggsraise cholesterol levels, which increases heart attack risk. Foods high in saturated fat are especially dangerous because they can trigger the body to produce extra cholesterol.
Plants do the opposite. They are very low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol. Plants are also rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of cholesterol and reduces the amount of cholesterol the liver produces. Oatmeal, barley, beans, and some fruits and vegetables are all good sources of soluble fiber.
It is important to continue to work closely with your health care provider to monitor your health and manage medications, even as you make dietary changes.
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What Are Early Signs Of Fh
When you have FH, early detection of high cholesterol levels is key to getting the treatment that can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to family history of early cardiovascular problems, you may also notice lumps forming under your skin.
These fatty deposits are called xanthomas, and are particularly noticeable around tendons in the hands, knees, Achilles tendons and elbows, and under the skin around your eyes. Sometimes an ophthalmologist may spot signs of cholesterol deposits in your eyes as well.
Whether or not you have obvious signs of high cholesterol, you should get checked if heart disease runs in your family. Talk to your family doctor about your concerns a simple blood test is all it takes to see if your cholesterol levels are in the healthy range. A high cholesterol level at a young age is a particular red flag that you may have FH. If your doctor suspects you have the condition, you can undergo genetic testing to confirm the diagnosis.
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How The Fat You Eat Affects Cholesterol Levels
The relationship between the fat we eat and our health, particularly our cardiovascular health, has been hotly debated for many years.
Heres what you need to know:
Not all fats are created equally.
The kinds of fat you eat matter more than the amount.
There are different types of fats in our diet:
Polyunsaturated fats: essential and important nutrients
Monounsaturated fats: can come from plant or animal products and are generally considered healthy
Saturated fats: less healthy than mono- and polyunsaturated fats
Trans fats: unhealthy fats
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Are You Serious About Reducing Cholesterol
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Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol can increase your levels of triglycerides. Along with LDL cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides raise your risk of heart disease.
Excess alcohol consumption also increases blood pressure and can lead to obesity both additional risk factors for heart disease.
To reduce the risk of heart disease and other risks from alcohol, limit your intake to no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 drinks per day.
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Who Is Most At Risk For Fh
Familial hypercholesterolemia can affect anyone whose family carries the genetic mutation. However, its found more frequently in those who are of French Canadian, Ashkenazi Jewish, Lebanese or Afrikaner descent. The biggest problem with FH is that more than 90% of people who have it havent been diagnosed, which means you should pay careful attention to your family history,
Seth Martin, M.D., M.H.S., associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Advanced Lipid Disorders Center.
If people in your family have had heart attacks, needed stents or had bypass surgery earlier in life before age 55 in men and before 65 in women those are signals that theres something causing your family to be at higher risk for heart disease, he explains. It could be familial hypercholesterolemia.
Lifestyle Changes To Lower Cholesterol
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can help you lower or control your cholesterol include:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. It recommends that you eat and drink only enough calories to stay at a healthy weight and avoid weight gain. It encourages you to choose a variety of nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Examples of eating plans that can lower your cholesterol include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet and the DASH eating plan.
- Weight Management. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol. This is especially important for people with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that includes high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, and being overweight with a large waist measurement .
- Physical Activity. Everyone should get regular physical activity .
- Managing stress. Research has shown that chronic stress can sometimes raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
- Quitting smoking.Quitting smoking can raise your HDL cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries, having more HDL can help to lower your LDL cholesterol.
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How To Lower Cholesterol Quickly And Naturally
If youve been diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, your doctor may have given you a deadline for lowering it before opening up the conversation to medications to control your cholesterol.
This sudden change in your health statusand the pressure to make potentially huge lifestyle changes in a short amount of timemay feel overwhelming, especially if youre unfamiliar with the causes of high cholesterol, confused about what your cholesterol numbers mean, or at a loss about where and how to start making necessary changes to improve your cholesterol.
Welcome to the Forward guide to helping you get those numbers down naturally. Here, we take a look at the three overarching lifestyle factors that have the biggest impact on cholesteroldiet, exercise, and stress. Understanding how these affect your cholesterol is the first step to lowering it. After each section, youll find a link to a related guide offering practical and actionable tips for changing your eating and exercise habits and reducing stress.
Getting A Cholesterol Test
A blood sample is taken that will be used to determine the amount of bad cholesterol , good cholesterol and other fatty substances in your blood.
You may be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours before the cholesterol test, usually including when you’re asleep at night. This ensures that all food is completely digested and won’t affect the outcome of the test.
Your GP or practice nurse can carry out the cholesterol test and will take a blood sample, either using a needle and a syringe or by pricking your finger.
A newer type of test that measures non-high-density lipoprotein is now sometimes used because it’s thought to be a more accurate way of estimating cardiovascular disease risk than LDL.
Non-HDL cholesterol is total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol. It’s also not necessary to fast before the test, so it is more convenient.
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What Is The Difference Between Hdl And Ldl Cholesterol
Cholesterol doesnt dissolve in blood. To be transported in the bloodstream, cholesterol is packed into two types of carriers: low-density lipoproteins or high-density lipoproteins . LDL cholesterol, which is sometimes known as bad cholesterol, is necessary in limited quantities , but high LDL cholesterol levels can dramatically increase your risk of a heart attack. Thats because LDL particles can contribute to atherosclerosisor clogged arteries. HDL cholesterolsometimes called good cholesterolhelps clear LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
When doctors measure cholesterol levels, they first look at total cholesterol as a quick way to assess a persons risk. For a more exact guide, they divide the total level by the HDL level. Heart attack risk is minimized by having a lower total cholesterol and a higher proportion of HDL cholesterol. The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL should be less than 4 to 1.
Unfortunately, the average American man has a ratio of 5 to 1. Vegetarians, on the other hand, average about 3 to 1. Smoking and obesity lower HDL vigorous exercise and foods rich in vitamin C may increase it.
The Dietary Guidelines For Americans Summarized
Heres a summary of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
Avoid industrial trans fats.
Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, and aim to get less than 10% of your calories from saturated fats.
Reduce calories from solid animal fats with plant oils when possible.
Prioritize seafood , lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes , nuts, seeds, and soy products over red and processed meats as sources of protein.
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Eliminate Or Reduce Bad Fats In Your Diet
A diet high in trans fats or saturated fats, known as bad fats, can increase cholesterol levels. Lowering your intake of unhealthy dietary fats is central to lowering your cholesterol.
Mostly found in full-fat dairy products, fried foods, and red meats, saturated fats are solid at room temperature, and theyre a major contributor to high bad LDL cholesterol levels. Limit saturated fats to less than seven percent of your total daily caloriesfor a 2,000 calorie diet, thats around 16 to 22 grams per day, roughly the equivalent of two slices of bacon.
Also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, trans fat is so bad for heart health that it was banned by the FDA effective January 1, 2021. While trans fat occurs naturally in small amounts in dairy products and red meat, more concerning is that you may still be consuming it in your diet through certain baked goods and processed foods without knowing it. Thats because if a product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, manufacturers can list it as 0 grams on the labelbut they still have to include it on the list of ingredients, where itll be listed as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
If you frequently eat several servings per day of certain processed foods, those one-half-grams-or-less of trans fats can add up to serious problems for your heart health. These are some of the food products that may still have a surprising amount of trans fat: