Eating Healthy But Your Ldl Is Still High
If you have transitioned to a whole food, plant-based diet and still have high LDL, you may want to take a closer look at your family history, diet, and lifestyle.
Most cases of high cholesterol are not caused by a single inherited condition but result from a combination of lifestyle choices and the effects of variations in many genes. Familial hypercholesterolemia occurs because of a genetic defect on chromosome 19. Its an inherited disorder that makes it harder for your body to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood. However, your genes are not your destiny, and the first line of treatment for FH is lifestyle modification.
Lower Your Fat Intake
Being physically active is another way to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, particularly for strength training, aerobics, and high-intensity exercise such as HIIT . However, even low-intensity exercise has been shown to increase HDLs anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities. Exercise can also help to lower LDL cholesterol when combined with dietary changes and weight loss.
Diet or Statins?
Where Cholesterol Comes From
The two sources of cholesterol are your own body and the food you consume.
This may come as a surprise to many people under the mistaken impression that cholesterol comes only from the food they eat.
In fact, even if you never ate any food with cholesterol, your body would still produce the 1,000 mg or so of cholesterol it needs for proper functioning.
Cholesterol is found in every cell in your body. It is mainly produced in your liver with some also made in the small intestine and, of course, your body’s cells.
The liver is so good at producing cholesterol it can even supplement the amount produced by the cells themselves when required. This is especially important for those cells that require a lot of cholesterol, e.g. in the production of sex hormones.
Risks You Cant Change
No matter how active and healthy you are, there is one risk factor for high cholesterol that you just cant change genetics.
Genetics really drives a lot of the cholesterol abnormalities, said Ochman. It is the number one risk factor that exists for cardiovascular disease, and when we look at risk calculators for many different diseases genetics is factored into almost all of them.
For those with inherited high cholesterol, taking medication may happen eventually but Ochman reports there is still value in making healthy choices.
Exercise and diet can lower your overall medication burden, control your weight, strengthen your muscles, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and benefit your cardiovascular system, said Ochman. Even if you know you might one day wind up taking a medication, its important to make good lifestyle choices and prolong that day as long as possible.
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For more details about cholesteroland its affect on your health, visit our health library.
- Cholesterol can build up in arteries and narrow them. Over time this limited blood flow can cause serious health problems including: heart attack, stroke, and coronary or peripheral artery disease.
- Think of plaque build-up as a little like developing a clog in your pipes its a situation to avoid!
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Whats The Difference Between Good And Bad Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol: good cholesterol or HDL and bad cholesterol or LDL .
HDL is the good kind of cholesterol because it moves from your arteries to your liver, which then expels it from your body. While LDL is the bad kind of cholesterol because it goes to your arteries, where it may collect in the artery walls and create a clog.
However, there is a bit of good news in all of this. You dont have to give up your favorite foods in order to reduce bad cholesterol. In fact, with some diet modifications and regular light exercise, a good supplement can help manage your cholesterol.
How Serious Of A Problem Is Cholesterol
As Americans we are doing a better job at controlling our cholesterol. The average total cholesterol in the US has dropped from about 220 down to about 200 over the last one to two decades. With this, there has been a sharp drop in heart attacks, stents, and coronary bypass surgeries in the US. Personally, I think the real goal should be to be physically fit AND have a total cholesterol below 150 naturally if we really want to finally end heart attacks.
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Cut Down On Your Alcohol Intake
When you drink alcohol, your liver breaks it down into triglycerides and cholesterol in your body. Alcohol consumption can also raise your blood pressure and make it harder to keep your weight in a healthy range.
Cutting down on beer, wine, and liquor can be a simple first step to lowering your cholesterol.
Avoid These Foods To Help Lower Cholesterol
There are foods that you should avoid if you can or, at the very least, reduce the amount of them that you consume:-
Foods With High Amounts of Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
These are animal foods such as red meat with marbling , poultry and dairy products such as full-fat milk, eggs, cheese and sour cream, etc.
Foods Containing Trans-Fats
These are foods such as cakes, cookies, crackers, chips , margarine, shortening, fried foods, frozen food, breakfast cereals, energy bars, commercially baked products, etc.
Meats High in Fat
Typically these are foods such as sausage, bacon, liver, kidneys, ribs, steak, pastrami, corned beef, and other processed meats.
Fast foods are normally high in total fat, trans-fats, hydrogenated fats and saturated fats. So try to avoid things like hamburgers, fried chicken, tacos, fries, and so on.
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Why Try To Reduce Cholesterol Without Medication
You might not want to take medication to bring your cholesterol down for several reasons.
Statins are a type of medication used to manage high cholesterol. The side effects of statins may be seen by some as worse than the risks of having high cholesterol. These side effects can include:
- muscle pain
, you should get your cholesterol levels checked:
- every 5 years after you turn age 20
- more often if you have a family history of high cholesterol or cardiovascular conditions
Incorporate Exercise Into Your Daily Routine
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is one of the most efficient ways to reduce your cholesterol without medication.
Heres what happens to your cholesterol levels when you start exercising on a regular basis:
Regular exercise helps to reduce your overall cholesterol by breaking down and lowering the number of triglycerides .
Regular exercise also helps to increase HDL in the blood which aids the process of removing excess cholesterol from the blood.
Regular exercising may not have a significant impact on LDL unless exercise is combined with better dietary habits and overall weight loss.
Regular exercise doesnt need to be particularly intensive, and you can break up your session into 15 minute blocks throughout the day. Try to park the car further away from where you need to go, or get off a few stops early on the bus. Maybe take a walk around the block after your evening meal or go for a walk on your lunch break a couple of times a week. These are all positive small steps that you can take for better health.
To reduce your cholesterol levels without medication, lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke, 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity is recommended, three to four times each week.
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Try Having One Vegetarian Meal Every Week
Dont let the word vegetarian scare you. By choosing a smartly prepared vegetarian meal, youre hitting multiple cholesterol-lowering goals at the same time, like eating healthier fats and getting more soluble fiber. Plus, many vegetarian meals are just as flavorful and filling as their meaty cousins.
Heres one idea for a low-cholesterol recipe: Try a freshly prepared salad with a sesame vinaigrette and some grilled, spiced tofu. For dessert, add some fresh blueberries, strawberries and oats to low-fat vanilla yogurt.
The key here is to build up a routine, like making every Tuesday night vegetarian night. Once that becomes the norm, try expanding to different nights, or add a weekly vegetarian lunch, too. You can also be flexitarian by just eating smaller portions of meat. Over time, these modifications can really pay off.
You Can Begin To Reduce Your Bad Ldl Cholesterol Naturally By Making A Few Simple Changes In Your Diet
If your cholesterol is creeping upward, your doctor has probably told you that diet and exercisethe traditional cornerstones of heart healthcould help to bring it down. And if youd prefer to make just one change at a time to lower your cholesterol naturally, you might want to begin with your diet. A major analysis of several controlled trials involving hundreds of men and women found that dietary changes reduced LDL and total cholesterol while exercise alone had no effect on either.
The people in the studies followed a variety of diets, from Mediterranean to low-fat to low-calorie. However, the most effective diets substituted foods with the power to lower cholesterol for those that boost cholesterol. According to Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Womens Hospital, eating with your LDL in mind doesnt have to be an exercise in self-deprivation. While you may have to say goodbye to a few snacks and fast foods, you can replace them with others that are equally satisfying. You dont have to follow an all-or-nothing approach. Its really a matter of common sense, she says. She suggests a few ways to start getting your cholesterol under control and keep it normal.
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Nutrition And Dietary Supplements
In addition to eating a healthy diet, low in saturated fat, with plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, some specific foods and supplements may help lower cholesterol.
Fiber: Several studies show that soluble fiber lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Fiber can also help you lose weight because it makes you feel full. Your doctor will encourage you to get more fiber in your diet. You may also take a fiber supplement. Men should get 30 to 38 g of fiber per day. Women should get 21 to 25 g per day.
Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber found in oat bran and other plants. It slightly reduces LDL cholesterol, which is why oat bran is touted as a cholesterol-lowering food.
Soy: Many studies have shown that eating soy protein , rather than animal meat, helps lower blood cholesterol levels, especially when you eat a diet low in saturated fat. One study found that as little as 20 g of soy protein per day is effective in reducing total cholesterol, and that 40 to 50 g shows faster effects . Another study found that soy can help reduce triglyceride levels. The AHA recommends that people with elevated total and LDL cholesterol add soy to their daily diet, and that soy is safe when consumed as part of your regular diet. But talk to your doctor before you take soy supplements. Soy isoflavones may have estrogen-like effects in the body, which might lead to an increased risk of breast and other cancers.
Whats Considered High Cholesterol
Having too much cholesterol can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, so knowing your levels is the first step in keeping it under control. A basic screening, known as a lipid panel, can tell your medical provider your total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides.
Having this screening performed regularly is important, since high cholesterol doesnt cause noticeable symptoms. Healthy cholesterol is defined as:
- Total cholesterol between 125 and 200 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women
If your LDL levels are too high and HDL levels too low, your medical provider will talk through ways to improve them and protect your heart.
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Cholesterol : The Good And The Bad
Cholesterol is an important aspect of health that needs to be observed and kept at a healthy level. When we talk about lowering cholesterol, itâs helpful to know what we are trying to accomplish.
Total cholesterol is made up of several different kinds of fats that can be found in the blood, including :
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL
LDL is often referred to as the âbad cholesterol.â Having a high LDL cholesterol level can cause buildup and even blockages in the arteries, which may increase the risk of stroke or heart attack. Triglycerides are another type of non-cholesterol fat that can contribute to health issues and are usually measured with total cholesterol levels.
Why is this important? There is also a form of âgood cholesterol,â or HDL. HDL helps lower LDL cholesterol levels and prevents it from forming buildup or blockages in the arteries. Some of the steps that help lower total cholesterol may involve raising HDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol levels are usually measured by a test called a lipid panel, which is used to determine the LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels in the blood. The balance of these levels can help you and your healthcare provider determine if steps are needed to lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Letâs examine the different factors that can help manage cholesterol.
Risks And Side Effects
Although most people benefit from statins, these drugs can have side effects. The most serious side effects occur in people who are taking other medications or who have an underlying health condition. Many side effects go away as your body adapts to the medication.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common side effect of statins is muscle and joint aches and pains. The medication can also cause nausea and vomiting.
More serious side effects include liver and kidney damage, an increase in blood sugar, and neurological side effects. In some people, statins can cause a breakdown in muscle cells and lead to permanent muscle damage.
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Eat More Fruit And Veg
Eating more fruit and veg can be an effective way to help lower your LDL levels.
Fruit and vegetables contain substances known as plant sterols or plant stanols. Plant sterols naturally occur in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Some foods, such as margarine are fortified with plant sterols as an alternative to butter.
Heres what happens when you eat plant sterols and stanols:
Plant sterols and stanols closely resemble cholesterol molecules, the more plant sterols and stanols you have circulating in the blood, the better your defence mechanism against the absorption of cholesterol into the blood.
Plant sterols and stanols mimic cholesterol molecules and therefore block its absorption into the digestive tract.
The regular consumption of plant sterols and plant stanols is said to lower cholesterol cholesterol levels by A) Reducing how much cholesterol can be produced in the body. B) Limiting the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract.
In sum: Incorporating more fruit and vegetables into the diet can increase the amount of plant sterols and stanols in the blood, naturally decreasing the amount of cholesterol in the blood in a natural way.
Add Healthy Proteins To Your Diet
Adding healthy proteins is a good approach for reducing your cholesterol levels without medication.
The Cleaveland Clinic reports that choosing cleaner and leaner proteins may help to lower both your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure.
If you are trying to lose weight to improve your cholesterol levels, its also good to know that healthy proteins help you to control your appetite by helping you feel fuller for longer.
Whey protein may also help to lower cholesterol levels, as it carries the health benefits of dairy products without high levels of fat, it also acts as a good source of supplementation for those who are vegan or vegetarian.
Here are some healthy proteins that may lower cholesterol and leave you feeling fuller for longer:
- Low fat milk and yoghurt
How much protein should you eat each day?
Men aged 19-70 years of age should aim to consume 56 grams of protein each day.
In sum: Eating more protein acts as a double whammy in improving your cholesterol levels by reducing the unhealthy fats that are associated with certain protein sources, and by leaving you feeling fuller for longer, which helps you on your weight loss journey to lower cholesterol levels without medication.
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Who Has An Increased Risk Of High Cholesterol
Those with an increased risk of high cholesterol are people who:
- eat too much foods containing saturated fat, trans fat and high cholesterol
- are overweight / obese
- are on certain drugs that can increase cholesterol
- have health issues that can increase cholesterol
- have a family history of high cholesterol
- are men aged 45 and over
- are women aged 55 and over
Let South Denver Cardiology Associates Help
If you are trying to improve your health by cutting down on your cholesterol, South Denver Cardiology Associates offers many programs that might be useful. This includes our gym and various exercise classes.
We can also help you assess the seriousness of your heart problems with extensive diagnostic testing options. For example, we offer a heart scan that looks at the calcification of your heart arteries. This can help you understand your heart risks in the near term.
To learn more about the benefits of working with South Denver Cardiology, please call 303-744-1065 or use our online form to schedule an appointment today.
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