Above-average cholesterol levels may be increasingly common but they definitely aren’t a good thing! As plaque builds up in artery walls, the whole cardiovascular system is put under stress (1). That’s why high cholesterol is directly associated with high blood pressure and a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol lowering drugs are inconvenient, pricy and often do very little in fixing the actual underlying cause. If you want to lower your cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy range, you’ll have to do more than just take a few pills! You need to make changes to your lifestyle.
Here are a few natural ways to lower cholesterol levels and get your health back on track!
1. Get your heart pumping
There’s no doubt that exercise is essential to overall health and longevity. While there are lots of studies suggesting more than 30 minutes of exercise is necessary to see any real results, the UK Nation Health Services insist that 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week is all you need to improve your cholesterol levels (2).
What’s important here is to exercise at a level you feel comfortable doing everyday. There’s no need for high intensity workouts if you can only do it once a week because you’re too sore the next day to even walk! Start small but be consistent with your progress.
Here’s an example of a progressive 30-minute walking routine:
- Week 1: Walk 10 minutes, rest 3 minutes, walk 5 minutes. Rest 1 minute, then repeat.
- Week 2: Walk 10 minutes, rest 1 minute, walk 5 minutes. Rest 1 minute again, then repeat.
- Week 3: Walk 10 minutes, rest 1 minute, walk 10 minutes. Rest 1 minute, then repeat.
- Week 4 and 5: Walk 20 minutes each session.
- Week 6 and 7: Walk 25 minutes each session.
- Week 8: Walk 30 minutes each session.
TIP: You should always be able to carry on a conversation while you’re walking. If you can’t, you’re going to fast and should slow down.
2. Eat more greens
It pays to put produce on your plate! Dietary fiber works wonders in lowering cholesterol. On top of providing essential nutrients, fruits and vegetables contain natural cholesterol-blocking chemicals called sterols and stanols (3).
- Olive oil
- Flax seeds
- Walnuts, Almonds, Cashews
- Green tea
3. Get spicy
Adding a dash of flavour to your favourite meal will help your body in ways you wouldn’t expect. In fact, spices lower blood fat and help get rid of bad fats by preventing them from being absorbed by the body. After eating a spice-heavy meal, antioxidant activity in the blood increases by 13% and triglyceride levels are reduced by 30%.
4. Ban Bad Fats From Your Diet
Most processed foods contain trans fats, which are manufactured when hydrogen is added to liquid fat to help it to solidify. They aren’t created to benefit the consumer but rather to extend the shelf life of products. These fats raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol(3).
5. Keep A Healthy Weight
Staying at a healthy weight helps your body in many ways. The higher your body mass index, the higher your risk for obesity-related disease such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke (4).
6. Drink Up
A glass of red wine a day is actually good for the health of your arteries. It’s high in antioxidants and increases “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) while decreasing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (5), also called good and bad cholesterol. Make sure not to go over the one glass limit per day.
Stress never does anybody any good. High stress levels as well as prolonged stress leads to higher cholesterol and high blood pressure. It also puts you at risk of developing atherosclerosis, a condition during which arteries narrow alarmingly, putting more strain on the heart and potentially starving organs of nutrients and oxygen (6).