Understanding Cholesterol: How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally

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Understanding Cholesterol: How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

April 8, 2022 / Read Time 6 minutes

How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally

Lowering your cholesterol can be as easy as making some simple changes. Read more about how to lower your cholesterol, including diet changes and lifestyle changes. Thankfully, you have a lot of control over lowering your cholesterol, which can increase your overall health and wellbeing. 

  1. 1

    Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  2. 2

    See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

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    Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy-fat-like substance that is made in your liver and travels through your bloodstream. Cholesterol is the key ingredient to make new cells. Having healthy cholesterol levels are important for cardiovascular health and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Cholesterol is used by your body to build cells like vitamins and hormones. Cholesterol is not inherently bad, but when you hear your doctor say you have high cholesterol, they are referring to a type of cholesterol that can cause problems. 

There are three types of cholesterol: Triglycerides, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). Some types of cholesterol are felt to be "good" cholesterol - essential to the body and protective for cardiovascular health - while others are known as "bad" cholesterol as they may increase risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attacks and strokes.

What is the Difference Between "Good Cholesterol" and "Bad Cholesterol"?

The difference between good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (Triglycerides and LDL) is that the good assists with cell renewal and removing bad lipids off artery walls. However, bad cholesterol causes narrowing of blood vessels.

If blood vessels narrow, then you are at risk for events such as blood clots or fat deposits, which can block arteries. Once arteries are blocked, there is a decrease in blood flow, limiting the delivery of oxygen and other vital nutrients to the heart and the body. The decrease in blood flow can occur suddenly, or gradually over time. Complete blockage can cause a heart attack, while blockages that break off and travel to the brain can cause strokes.

What are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are fatty particles in the blood. While everyone has some, too high levels of triglycerides increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. High levels of triglycerides can stick to artery walls, causing disease. Extremely high triglycerides can also cause inflammation in the pancreas, known as pancreatitis. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, other serious health concerns can result.

What is LDL Cholesterol?

LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is another type of potentially "bad" cholesterol. Somewhat similar to triglycerides, LDL can build up inside of your arteries under certain conditions, blocking the blood flow to vital organs, such as your heart and brain.

What is HDL Cholesterol?

HDL is known as the "good" cholesterol. It carries LDL particles out of the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and processed by your body.

Too much bad cholesterol (triglycerides or LDL), or not enough of good cholesterol (HDL), increases the risk that cholesterol will slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries, potentially causing life-threatening problems.

What Reduces Cholesterol Quickly?

Following the "three C" method helps lower your cholesterol quickly. The American Heart Association uses an acronym to encourage people to manage high cholesterol. The three "C" method stands for CCC:

  • Check your cholesterol levels (there is power in knowing your numbers to assess your risk)

  • Change your diet and lifestyle to improve your numbers

  • Control your cholesterol with medications, if necessary 

The easiest way to reduce cholesterol quickly is to fix things that you have control over such as what you eat, carrying excess weight, drinking too much alcohol, not exercising, and quitting smoking. Controlling your cholesterol may be easier than you think. But it all starts by getting your cholesterol checked and coming up with a plan with your doctor.

Related: Weight Loss Treatment Online

How Can You Lower Bad Cholesterol Levels?

You can lower triglycerides by reducing or eliminating simple starches and sugars such as white breads and flours, sweets, and processed snacks.  

You can lower LDL cholesterol levels by reducing certain types of fats in your diet, eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and adding green vegetables and protein into your diet. Lowering your triglyceride and LDL levels can reduce the amount of bad cholesterol that is stuck to your arterial walls. 

Having an adequate amount of HDL cholesterol also helps lower LDL by attaching and carrying LDL away from artery walls. Significant changes can be made to your cholesterol by taking control of things you can change. 

Lifestyle Changes to Help Lower Cholesterol

Healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes are easy ways to help lower your cholesterol. Managing your cholesterol in healthy ways leads to overall health benefits like decreased risk of heart disease or stroke. 

 The following are key ways to help maintain cholesterol health:

  • Exercise regularly which helps to raise your HDL

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Drink less alcohol which helps to lower triglycerides

  • Quit smoking if you smoke

Diet Changes to Help Lower Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol comes from two sources. The first source comes from your liver which makes all of the cholesterol your body needs, while the second source comes from foods you eat.

Strategically eating certain types of foods can help to lower your cholesterol numbers. In general, people who do not already have heart disease should aim for the following numbers:

  • Total cholesterol below 200

  • LDL below 130

  • HDL above 60

  • Triglycerides below 150

The following diet changes can help lower cholesterol levels and improve your overall health:

  • Substitute cooking oils with healthy oils like olive oil

  • Choose meats with fewer saturated fats like fish or chicken

  • Get more soluble fiber by increasing green vegetable intake

  • Try having one vegetarian (without animal meat) meal every week

  • Embrace low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurts

What Are the Worst Foods for High Cholesterol?

The worst foods for high cholesterol are ones that contain simple sugars, processed carbs, and trans fats. Foods high in saturated fat or trans-fat make your liver produce more cholesterol, which can lead to unhealthy amounts inside the body. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, decreasing your consumption of saturated fats to less than 7 percent of your total daily calorie intake can reduce your LDL cholesterol by 8 to 10 percent. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels, making them more dangerous than saturated fats.

Saturated and trans fats make your liver produce more cholesterol than it normally would in comparison to healthy oils. Some foods that may worsen high cholesterol include:

  • Added sugars

  • Foods labeled as "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil"

  • Full-fat dairy products like butter and cheese

  • Red meats

  • Fried foods

  • Processed meats (hot dogs, sausage, bacon)

  • Baked goods with butter and/or shortening

The Food and Drug Administration has recently banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, or artificial trans fats. Although trans fats are banned as of 2018, it is still a good idea to check the label as some foods on the market may still contain small amounts of trans fat as a result of processing methods used.

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Talk to a Doctor About Cholesterol

Everyone's body is unique, and different types of high cholesterol may need different types of lifestyle changes.  And sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to manage high cholesterol. Some people may require prescription medication to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.

For anyone who has had their cholesterol checked, it is only natural to focus on your cholesterol score or the actual numbers. But the numbers do not really tell the whole story about your health. That is why it is important to discuss all of your risk factors with your PlushCare doctor. 

So, if you are due to have your cholesterol levels checked or if you have never had them checked, make an appointment today to speak with a PlushCare online doctor.

Read More About Cholesterol

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