Have you checked your cholesterol level regularly?
This level of an individual is closely associated with heart health. That’s why health professionals recommend maintaining a healthy range of cholesterol levels.
There are two types of cholesterol such as low-density lipoprotein or the “bad” and high-density lipoprotein or the “good” cholesterol.
In the United States, almost 73.5 million adults are experiencing a high level of LDL that put them at a double risk of developing heart disease.
What is cholesterol?
It is a fatty, waxy substance present in our body and flows through the bloodstream.
A certain amount of cholesterol is needed by your body to function properly.
Along with lipoproteins, they flow throughout your body. However, lipoproteins are soluble proteins that are responsible for transporting fats in your body.
The function of LDL or bad cholesterol is to carry the cholesterol into your blood vessels and body tissues.
If too much LDL is deposited in your body, there’s a great possibility that the excess amount of cholesterol is deposited along the walls of the blood vessels.
This condition can lead to stroke or heart attack.
On the other hand, good cholesterol or HDL works on transporting the cholesterol from the blood vessels and body tissues back to the liver where it is eliminated from your body. Thus, the main function of HDL is to protect you from the risk of developing heart disease.
What is the Ideal Level of Cholesterol?
The ideal or healthy amount of total cholesterol is about 199 mg/dL or lower than that. If the level of your cholesterol is 240 mg/dL or more, then you should be careful because it is higher than the recommended amount and may cause adverse effects on your health. If the range is between 200 to 239 mg/dL, it is within the borderline.
For the LDL, it is recommended to maintain 100 mg/dL or lower than that; the higher level is 160 mg/dL or beyond. 130 to 159 mg/dL is within the borderline level that is tolerable.
It is recommended to have regular checkups of your cholesterol every 4 to 6 years when you reach the age of 20.
Best Ways to Lower Cholesterol
Once you are diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, you should ensure to act immediately on how to reduce it. Your doctor may prescribe medication, but there are simple and natural ways to lower your cholesterol level.
1. Lifestyle changes
Practicing a healthy lifestyle is the key to preventing the risk of developing health conditions. Lifestyle changes can help to lower cholesterol levels. Dr. Eugenia Gianos said that lifestyle and dietary changes can lower the cholesterol level by 20 percent, but may also vary on how the person practices it.
Usually, it takes about 3 to 6 months to lower the cholesterol level by doing regular exercise and a healthy diet. But, the changes are noticeable shortly in men than women.
Included in the lifestyle changes is improving your diet as it plays a significant role in lowering cholesterol levels. This is possible by reducing the intake of saturated fat and increasing dietary fiber.
You should avoid consuming hyper-processed foods that are harmful to your heart. Likewise, fatty foods can clog your arteries which may lead to stroke and other heart problems.
With this, you should avoid if not reduce intake of saturated fats and trans fats that easily raise bad cholesterol and heart-damaging. Instead, you should increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids that can protect you from heart disease.
It does not necessarily mean becoming a complete vegetarian to maintain a healthy range of cholesterol levels. Consuming more fruits and vegetables as well as fiber-rich foods. Plant foods are high in soluble fiber which is beneficial in lowering bad cholesterol or LDL levels.
Plant proteins also help to lower cholesterol levels. That’s why you should include plant proteins and other products like soybeans, soymilk, and tofu. It is also recommended to eat whole grains to reduce both the LDL and total cholesterol levels as well as support a healthy heart.
Besides, chicken protein is easily digestible and can help your regular protein balance.
Regular exercise is another natural way to lower cholesterol levels. Aside from weight loss benefits, you can also expect cardiovascular benefits through exercise. Aerobic exercise enhances the HDL level, thus protecting you from heart disease.
Exercise along with healthy eating can help in lowering the cholesterol level. This means that to maintain a healthy level of cholesterol, an individual should avoid poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.
The vertical lines represent 95 percent confidence intervals. Significance levels, after Bonferroni’s adjustment for the six pairwise comparisons, are indicated as follows: the asterisk denotes P<0.05 for the comparison with the control group, the dagger P<0.001 for the comparison with the control group, and the double dagger P<0.001 for the comparison with the exercise group. Source: nejm.org
In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins.
These medications can have a relatively quick impact on cholesterol levels, often within 6 to 8 weeks.
Statins work by blocking the liver from producing cholesterol. They are very effective at lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and can also raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
Does lowering your cholesterol protect you from ever having a heart attack?
Cholesterol plays an important part in our body to make hormones, digestive fluids, and Vitamin D. That’s why cholesterol itself is not bad because it helps the organs to function properly.
However, if the LDL is more than the normal level, then it can be a problem. This issue increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke and can cause severe damage to the arteries.
Lowering the cholesterol level in a way can protect you from the risk of a heart attack. If there’s too much bad cholesterol in your body, most likely it will clog the arteries.
When the arteries harden, you may experience atherosclerosis which prevents the blood from flowing through the arteries. This puts pressure on your heart to push blood. Likewise, the plaque accumulated in the arteries can lead to heart disease.
When the coronary arteries are blocked by plaque, the flow of oxygen-rich blood toward the heart muscle is disrupted. This problem may cause angina which is a warning that you’re at risk of experiencing a heart attack.
Therefore, to avoid a heart attack you should ensure that your arteries are not blocked and the blood can flow freely throughout them.
In men, chances of heart attacks are high, but in women, the rate of cardiac arrest is lower.
There are many supplements for both men and women to improve the immune system.
These can help them to maintain a proper cholesterol level.
What role does genetics play in determining cholesterol levels?
Studies showed that several factors affect cholesterol levels and genetics is one of those. Most likely, if a close relative or member of the family experience high cholesterol level, there’s a great possibility that you may also experience such a health condition.
When a high cholesterol level runs in your family, it is called familial hypercholesterolemia. This is possible as the genes of the parents were passed to the children, thus the level of cholesterol in the blood also increases.
People having familial hypercholesterolemia are unable to regulate or control their cholesterol levels despite lifestyle choices, diet, and exercise. Instead, they need to take medications.
To know if familial hypercholesterolemia runs in your family, genetic testing can be done. This will identify the faulty genes. If the test results are positive, your doctor will recommend frequent lipid panel screenings. This is the best way to create a monitoring plan and rule out the best treatment.
Monitoring Progress: The Key to Success
Frequency of Monitoring:
To gauge the effectiveness of chosen interventions, regular lipid profile tests are indispensable. These tests provide a comprehensive analysis of cholesterol levels, allowing for adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.
Consultation with Healthcare Professionals:
Regular consultations with healthcare professionals ensure a proactive approach to cholesterol management. These experts can assess progress, address concerns, and fine-tune strategies for optimal results.
Regardless of the factor that causes high cholesterol levels, it’s important to manage it properly. You should consult your doctor immediately to avoid developing health complications.
To lower your cholesterol level, you should practice a healthy lifestyle, have good eating habits, perform regular exercise, avoid using the substance, and take the medications prescribed by your healthcare provider.
is a registered dietitian with over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science from Dhaka University and has worked with various clients to help them achieve their health goals through personalized diet plans. Mounota is passionate about educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle and has written extensively on the subject for various publications.