Your cholesterol levels really determine your health. Cholesterol refers to a waxy, fat-like substance that is produced in the liver. It’s mainly contained in foods based on animal products. It is used by the body to perform many of its essential functions, such as in the building of cell membranes, in the production of sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen), and in the production of vitamin D and bile acids that help in the digestion of fats. However, high cholesterol levels in the body expose one to the risk of health issues.
There are two types of cholesterol in the body: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad type) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the good type). High LDL cholesterol levels lead to the build-up of fatty deposits on the arterial walls. This in turn increases one’s risk of stroke, heart attack, and other heart diseases.
High HDL cholesterol levels, on the other hand, protect the heart from heart diseases. HDL cholesterol usually collects and binds LDL cholesterol together with other oils contained in the arteries. They are then transported to the liver, where they are broken down and the excess cholesterol converted to bile juice.
Your lifestyle greatly contributes to the high cholesterol levels in your body. Other factors that cause high cholesterol levels include genetics and certain medications. High cholesterol levels in the body normally don’t produce symptoms.
They do, however, increase a person’s risk to suffering a stroke and other heart diseases. Healthcare practitioners normally prescribe medications such as statins to help in lowering your cholesterol levels. However, there are alternative natural ways that help in lowering high cholesterol levels. They are discussed below.
a) Adopting healthier diet options to reduce your cholesterol levels.
This mainly applies to the fats that you consume. Various foods contain different types of fat that affect your cholesterol levels. There are healthy and unhealthy fats. Examples of unhealthy fats include saturated fats, which remain solid at room temperature, and trans fats, which are hydrogenated unsaturated fats. Trans fats are mainly contained in margarine, shortening, lards, fried foods, and most processed foods. Most processed foods affect your cholesterol levels negatively.
Saturated fats are mainly contained in red meats, chicken skin, pork, dairy products such as butter and cheese, palm and coconut oils, and fish. You are encouraged to avoid or consume a little trans and saturated fats as they increase your LDL cholesterol levels.
In their place, you are encouraged to opt for mono-unsaturated fats that remain liquid at room temperature and poly-unsaturated fats that mainly consist of the essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. This controls your cholesterol levels. Mono-unsaturated fats are mainly contained in avocados, vegetable oils such as olive oil, and seed oils such as grapeseed oil.
Polyunsaturated fats are mainly contained in nuts such as walnuts, seed oils such as sunflower oils, and soybean products such as tofu. You are encouraged to incorporate more of these oils into your diet.
Dietary fiber forms a significant addition to a healthy diet. It’s found in two types, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a thick and gel-like paste in the intestines.
This gel plays various roles, like trapping fats to prevent their absorption into the blood. This, therefore, helps to lower your cholesterol levels in the blood. Soluble fibers are mainly contained in fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains such as oats and legumes like beans.
- b) Exercising regularly helps in lowering the LDL cholesterol levels and increasing the HDL cholesterol levels that are good for the heart.
- c) Adopting healthy sleeping habits by ensuring that you have enough and good quality sleep. The recommended amount is at least seven hours of sleep daily. Research studies show that inadequate sleep causes low HDL levels.
- d) Avoid/quit smoking since smoking reduces the HDL levels in the blood.
- e) Increase your water intake and take water regularly for the good health of your liver that is responsible for producing HDL cholesterol.