How To Decrease Your Cholesterol Levels
In most people, high HDL is not harmful, so it doesnt necessarily require treatment. The action plan depends largely on how high your levels are, as well as your overall medical history. Your doctor can help determine whether you need to actively lower HDL levels or not.
Your overall cholesterol levels may be decreased by:
- not smoking
- drinking alcohol in moderate amounts only
- getting moderate exercise
- reducing saturated fats in your diet
- managing underlying health conditions, such as thyroid diseases
The American Heart Association recommends that everyone over the age of 20 gets a cholesterol test every four to six years. You may need to test more frequently if you have risk factors for high cholesterol, such as family history.
More research is needed to further understand how high HDL can be harmful in certain people. If you have a personal or family history of either high cholesterol levels or C-reactive proteins, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to regularly monitor your HDL levels.
Why High Cholesterol Matters
High cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death in the U.S. High levels of LDL cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries, narrowing the arteries and restricting blood flow. If some of this plaque breaks off and gets stuck in a narrowed artery, it can block the artery and cut off blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in heart attack or stroke.
How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed
You cant tell if you have high cholesterol without having it checked. A simple blood test will reveal your cholesterol level.
Men 35 years of age and older and women 45 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked. Men and women 20 years of age and older who have risk factors for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked. Teens may need to be checked if they are taking certain medicines or have a strong family history of high cholesterol. Ask your doctor how often you should have your cholesterol checked.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- Cigarette smoking.
- Having an immediate family member who has had heart disease.
- Being overweight or obese.
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Can You Get Rid Of Cholesterol Deposits
Researchers are working on ways to eliminate plaque from coronary arteries. One method that has been proposed involves using combinations of medicines in healthy people aged 25 to 55 years. It is suggested that getting the levels of cholesterol down very low will allow arteries to clear up and heal up.
Several researchers believe that the way to reverse heart disease, and to prevent it in the first place, is found in a whole food, plant-based diet. Studies have been done that have shown that limiting nutrition to whole foods that are plant-based have been successful in reducing blood cholesterol and even, in some cases, lessening plaque buildup.
How To Raise Your Hdl
For those who need to boost their HDL, lifestyle changes are the answer. “The best way to raise your HDL is through aerobic exercise, avoiding fatty foods and having a glass of red wine every day,” says Dr. Higgins.
Build your diet around vegetables, fruits, lean protein and low-fat dairy as well as heart-healthy nuts, states the Cleveland Clinic. The Mediterranean diet is a great way to put all these choices on the menu. Avoid trans fats, still found in some packaged foods, like cakes and cookies, and fried foods, margarine and saturated fats, found in animal-based foods like beef, full-fat dairy and butter, states the Mayo Clinic.
When it comes to alcohol, Mayo Clinic notes that moderate alcohol use has been linked to higher levels of HDL, but drinking alcohol for this purpose is a slippery slope because too much can cause weight gain, high blood pressure and elevated triglyceride levels. Also, Harvard Health Publishing warns that more than two drinks a day can raise your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
“The best evidence for alcohol increasing HDL is for red wine at about one glass per day,” says Dr. Higgins. “Other types of alcohol, like beer and mixed drinks, have less benefit and more empty calories. Don’t think you can save up your wine drinking till the end of the week and have seven glasses. If you drink wine, just one glass per day is all you need.”
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Controlling Cholesterol With Diet
Trying to reduce your cholesterol by avoiding eggs and meat alone may not be very effective.
If you remove all cholesterol from your body, your body will cease to function. Period.
It would be foolish of your body to depend on your diet for all its cholesterol needs because some meals may not contain enough cholesterol to sustain the body. And your body knows this. This is why your liver is in charge.
Your diet contributes to the remaining 20% or so of the cholesterol coursing through your body.
Cutting out meat, or going vegan can modestly reduce your cholesterol. Dramatic drops in cholesterol without a complete rethinking of both diet and lifestyle is likely to be temporarily.*
If your body senses less cholesterol in the diet, it will automatically increase livers cholesterol production. And vice versa, if youre eating a lot of cholesterol, the liver will take it easy on cranking out cholesterol. This is not new science. This knowledge is decades old.
If you quit eating meat and become a vegan, to reduce cholesterol, it may work. Temporarily. After all, cholesterol is only found in animal products.
Vegetables contain no cholesterol. So, if we ate only vegetables, our cholesterol problem would be licked. Right? RIGHT?
But after a couple of months, your cholesterol numbers will start creeping up again even on a vegan diet.
- people eating the least amount of red meat had the highest cholesterol
- and those who ate the most red meat had the lowest cholesterol
How To Lower Cholesterol: Know Your Fats
The American Heart Association recommends that just 25% to 35% of your daily calories come from fats such as those found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. For healthy people, saturated fat should comprise no more than 7% of your total calories. On a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, that’s about 140 calories worth of saturated fat. If you need to lower your LDL cholesterol, limit saturated fat to 5% to 6% of calories, or about 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat on a 2,000-calorie diet. Reduce trans fats to less than 1% of your total daily calories. This means avoiding fried foods and many junk foods.
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Heart Uk Recommendations For People With High Levels Of Hdl
If you have a family history of early heart disease
Ideally your doctor should contact a lipid specialist for advice if:
- your HDL cholesterol level is higher than average with no obvious cause
- and other people in your family, such as a parent or sibling, have heart disease and were diagnosed below the age of 60.
If your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol are high
If your total cholesterol is over 7.5mmol, with HDL over 2.5mmol, then your doctor should base their treatment decision mainly on your LDL cholesterol .
Raised LDL cholesterol puts your heart health at risk so it needs to be brought under control.
Note that the TC/HDL ratio may be misleading if your HDL is high.
Look after your overall health
If you have high cholesterol, its important to lower your risk of heart disease overall. Try to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle and manage any other health problems you have that can lead to heart disease. For example:
What Are The Types Of Cholesterol
Cholesterol moves throughout the body carried by lipoproteins in the blood. These lipoproteins include:
- Low-density lipoprotein is one of the two main lipoproteins. LDL is often called the bad cholesterol.
- High-density lipoprotein is the other main lipoprotein. HDL is often called the good cholesterol.
- Very-low-density lipoproteins are particles in the blood that carry triglycerides.
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When Should High Cholesterol Be Treated With Medication
If youve had a heart attack, stroke, or have diabetes or been diagnosed with inherited high cholesterol, youll need to take one or more cholesterol-lowering medications, in addition to being careful with your diet and staying active. Statins can have a tremendous impact for lowering LDL cholesterol, says Khandwalla. Statins decrease your risk of illness and dying if youre in one of these high-risk groups.
In addition to statins, which should always be used first, other cholesterol-lowering drugs include fibrates, niacin, PCSK9 inhibitors, bile-acid sequestrants, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors, according to the CDC.
If you found out your cholesterol was high after a routine checkup, discuss your test results with your doctor. Your doctor will calculate your individual risk of heart attack or stroke to decide if you should be on a statin.
In some cases, the doctor may recommend giving a healthy diet and active lifestyle a try first. However, if your cholesterol levels remain high, you may need a heart scan to look for plaque buildup in your arteries, and your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs to lower your heart-disease and stroke risk.
What Happens If You Have High Cholesterol
What does high cholesterol mean?
High cholesterol means there is too much cholesterol in your blood. This can clog up your arteries the large blood vessels that carry blood around your body. Over time, this can lead to serious problems.
How does cholesterol clog up your arteries?
Excess cholesterol can be laid down in the walls of your arteries. Fatty areas known as plaques can form, and these become harder with time, making the arteries stiffer and narrower. This process is called atherosclerosis.
When the arteries become narrower, its harder for blood to flow through them. This puts a strain on your heart because it has to work harder to pump blood around your body. Eventually, the heart can become weak and cant work as well as it should.
Blood clots can form over the fatty, hardened parts of the arteries. The blood clots can block the artery completely, cutting off the blood flow. Bits of the blood clots can break away and become lodged in an artery or vein in another part of the body, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
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What Level Of Cholesterol Is Too Low
But is it possible for your cholesterol to be too low? Yes. While less common, low cholesterol can affect your health as well.
Cholesterol levels that are considered too low:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: lower than 40 mg/dL
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol: lower than 40 mg/dL
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How To Lower Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to help lower it. For instance, they may recommend changes to your diet, exercise habits, or other aspects of your daily routine. If you smoke tobacco products, they will likely advise you to quit.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications or other treatments to help lower your cholesterol levels. In some cases, they may refer you to a specialist for more care. See how long it may take for your cholesterol treatment to work.
To help you achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet.
For example, they may advise you to:
- limit your intake of foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats
- choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, and legumes
- eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- opt for baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, and roasted foods instead of fried foods
- avoid fast food and junk food
Foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, or trans fats include:
- red meat, organ meats, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy products
- processed foods made with cocoa butter, palm oil, or coconut oil
- deep fried foods, such as potato chips, onion rings, and fried chicken
- certain baked goods, such as some cookies and muffins
For example, the following products contain high levels of cholesterol:
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What Causes High Cholesterol
Your liver produces cholesterol, but you also get cholesterol from food. Eating too many foods that are high in fat can increase your cholesterol level.
Being overweight and inactive also causes high cholesterol. If you are overweight, you most likely have a higher level of triglycerides. If you never exercise and arent active in general, it can lower your HDL .
You family history also affects your cholesterol level. Research has shown that high cholesterol tends to run in families. If you have an immediate family member who has it, you could have it, too.
Smoking also causes high cholesterol. It lowers your HDL .
Reducing Heart Disease Naturally
One thing that this study does show is that cardiovascular disease is complicated.
The study also brings to light another fact about cholesterol drugs are not the only way to lower your LDL levels.
Most doctors who prescribe statins for high cholesterol will also recommend that patients exercise more and eat healthier foods.
But more hospitals and doctors offices are starting to promote lifestyle changes as a way for patients to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and LDL levels using diet and exercise alone.
Often this approach involves a whole food or plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes like chickpeas and lentils, healthy fats like those in olive oil and avocado, and dairy alternatives.
For many, this diet will be a challenge to switch to. But there is a growing body of research on its benefits.
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What You Can Do
Learn the basics: âYour cholesterolâ isnât just one number, but several that together give your doctor a âlipid profile.â Unhealthy levels are linked to hardening of the arteries, which can cause heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Your numbers include âbadâ and âgoodâ cholesterol, and triglycerides. Armed with this knowledge, and with the help and guidance of your doctor, you can start to understand and manage your own levels.
Get tested: Because unhealthy cholesterol numbers often donât cause symptoms, especially at first, itâs important to get tested. You can be slim and feel healthy and still have a cholesterol problem. Once you know thereâs a problem, you can try to change it through diet, lifestyle, and, if necessary, medication. But youâre unlikely to do that if you donât know about it. If youâre 20 or older, you should get your levels checked every 4 to 6 years. Your doctor should test you more often if youâre overweight or diabetic or you have heart disease.
Exercise: Regular exercise is one of the best ways to control your cholesterol. You donât have to run a marathon. A half-hour or so of brisk walking, swimming, or dancing three or four times a week should do the trick. If youâre short on time, you can break it into 10-minute increments throughout the day. Resistance training — pushups, pullups, weights — may help too.
When To Speak With A Doctor
There are few noticeable symptoms of high cholesterol. Emergency symptoms such as a stroke or heart attack may be the only indicator of damage from high cholesterol. This means that regular monitoring by a doctor is essential.
Most people should get their cholesterol checked with a blood test every 4 to 6 years. Your doctor may recommend more frequent screening if you live with any of the following:
- a history of heart conditions
- family history of high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
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How To Diagnose High Cholesterol
To measure your cholesterol levels, your doctor will use a simple blood test. Its known as a lipid panel. They can use it to assess your levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
To conduct this test, your doctor or other healthcare professional will take a sample of your blood. They will send this sample to a lab for analysis. When your test results become available, they will let you know if your cholesterol or triglyceride levels are too high.
To prepare for this test, your doctor may ask you to avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 12 hours beforehand. Learn more about testing your cholesterol levels.
Myth: I Would Be Able To Feel It If I Had High Cholesterol
Fact: High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. You may not know you have unhealthy cholesterol levels until it is too latewhen you have a heart attack or stroke. Thats why its so important to get your cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years.1,2 Learn more about getting your cholesterol checked.
Occasionally, some people develop yellowish growths on their skin called xanthomas, which are cholesterol-rich deposits. People with xanthomas may have high cholesterol levels.
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Who Should 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
- are over the age of 40 people over 40 should have their estimate of CVD risk reviewed regularly
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease for example, if your father or brother developed heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55, or if your mother or sister had these conditions before the age of 65
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia
- are overweight or obese
- have high blood pressure or diabetes
- have another medical condition, such as kidney disease, an underactive thyroid, or an inflamed pancreas these conditions can cause increased levels of cholesterol or triglycerides