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After finding out that you have a high cholesterol level, the first question on everyone’s lips is: How to lower cholesterol fast?
While cholesterol itself is not a bad thing, when it becomes high it can pose a major threat to health. But, even if this is a well-known fact, many of us have to deal with a high cholesterol diagnostic, especially as we get older.
In this article we will discuss what high-cholesterol is, why it’s bad for us and most importantly, how to lower cholesterol fast, or at least as fast as humanly possible.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is produced by our body, in the liver.
Isn’t this surprising? The very thing that can cause us to become sick is produced by one of our own organs. Who knew that the liver may cause the problem?
Cholesterol is needed because it helps build and repair cells and create hormones. And that is not all cholesterol does.
Vitamin D is produced by our body, under the influence of UV rays from the Sun from… you guessed it – cholesterol.
To sum it up cholesterol is used for the production of:
Tissues and membranes;
Bile (that is then released in the intestine to help in the digestion of fats).
As you can see, cholesterol is very important, as there are many essential functions that depend on having it and without it, some of the building blocks that we need to create cells and chemicals wouldn’t exist.
So, if it’s that important, why should we lower it? The more the merrier, right?
Not really. Too much of a good thing can be very bad. And in this particular case, it can be bad in the long term too.
Why is cholesterol bad?
Cholesterol can be divided in LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.
One of them is called “bad”, while the other one is “good”, offering protection from the other one. A classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
LDL cholesterol stands for Low density lipoprotein. This means that the particle is smaller. Over time, having high levels of LDL cholesterol causes them to build up on the artery walls.
This leads to narrower blood vessels that don’t allow for proper blood flow.
Furthermore, as blood doesn’t flow as it should, it can form clots that lead to stroke and heart attacks.
HDL cholesterol has a larger particle. It transports LDL cholesterol to the liver where it is processed again and eliminated.
So, we want to have high levels of HDL cholesterol and low levels of LDL cholesterol.
It is also important to always test for both types of cholesterol, as well as for total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
After reading this far you probably wonder why would our liver produce too much cholesterol if it ends up being harmful. Right?
Why do we get high cholesterol?
Our body is the result of years and years of evolution. In healthy individuals, it rarely makes mistakes.
There are a few individuals that produce too much cholesterol, but that is a rare occurrence.
The high blood cholesterol values that we see very often in today’s society are related to the modern diet that we have.
While the liver produces exactly the amount of cholesterol that we need, we also get some from eating animal products.
Meat (especially red meat), eggs, dairy and all animal products contain cholesterol.
This is why those on a lifelong vegan diet have more balanced blood lipid levels. However, vegans need special supplements to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
Another way that we ingest cholesterol is through ingesting fats that are transformed into triglycerides. Like margarine, and other processed fats.
Triglycerides and cholesterol
Triglycerides provide calories that were consumed and weren’t burned. They will eventually be processed, but when at the moment of the blood test, they were circulating in our blood.
Later, they get sent to the liver. There they are sent to fat cells which enlarge in order to accommodate the new tenants. And they are also transformed in VLDL (Very low density lipoprotein).
You probably guessed by its name, that it’s a very bad thing, especially because high tryglicerides levels are often associated with low HDL levels.
This VLDL particle will then be transformed into LDL cholesterol, which will reach the blood, and we already talked about the havoc that it can do there.
Triglycerides don’t come only from fats. We get a high triglycerides value if we eat too much carbohydrates, if we are sedentary or if we suffer from certain conditions like diabetes.
How to lower cholesterol fast?
Now that you have an understanding on what you are dealing with, let’s take a look at what you can do about it.
Depending on your cholesterol levels, lowering them can be a challenge. But it’s definitely one worth taking.
Before you start thinking that you need to act as fast as possible, you need to know that fast isn’t always a good thing.
When embarking on this journey, you will have to talk to your physician and listen to their advice.
They may recommend you statins, if your cholesterol levels are on the dangerous side.
While statins help improve cholesterol levels, they can also cause side effects like muscle pains and liver damage.
Of course, their benefits outweigh the risks, as the risk of stroke is considerably lower with balanced cholesterol levels. For optimal benefits, use statin drugs in combination with healthy lifestyle changes.
With statins, the lipid profile levels normalize in about a month, while with diet and exercise, it can take 3 to 4 months.
How to improve blood lipids naturally
There are four main aspects when you want to lower your cholesterol naturally:
What foods to avoid;
What foods to favor;
What not to eat to lower cholesterol?
We already talked about how foods that come from animals have cholesterol in them. Thus, you should keep an eye on them.
A plant-based diet is a great option for everyone. The majority of foods should be plant-based: vegetables, legumes, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds. Enjoy in smaller amounts poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. Red meat is richer in saturated fats and should be consumed in small quantities.
While many blame saturated fats, recent research points to the fact that the combination of excess, saturated fats and a high carbohydrate diet is very problematic. Thus, make sure you also limit carbohydrate consumption.
Processed foods with trans fats should also be eliminated from the diet.
Trans fats are the ones that are found in hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils. Make sure to read the label of the products that you buy.
You will be surprised to learn that even bread sometimes contains trans fats. Don’t you miss the times when bread was made from water, yeast, and flour? Me too.
What can you eat to lower cholesterol?
Changing your diet can be tricky at first. We humans are creatures of habit. And we made eating a habit that not only feeds us, but it also comforts us.
I am sure that you too decide to eat something good (and unhealthy) at the end of a bad day. It’s built inside our system.
But with the right mindset and strategy, you can change your habits and start eating healthy foods that will help you improve your overall health on the long term.
After eliminating fast food, fried foods, excessive meat and trans fats you should start working towards adding more and more healthy foods like:
Fiber, especially soluble fiber that you can find in oats and cabbage;
Beans, lots and lots of beans of your choice: lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, green beans, pinto beans etc.
How to lower blood lipids with exercise
We must admit that exercise is not a constant in many people’s lives. If you count your steps (which I highly encourage), you probably already know that you are not moving enough to stay healthy.
Most of us don’t exercise and being sedentary has become the norm – a staple of our society.
As with everything, baby steps are the key. But if with nutrition there are no short-cuts, there are a few when we are thinking about exercise.
Studies show that HIIT exercises can have a positive effect in lowering blood lipids. So much so that they can be as efficient as traditional aerobic training.
For those of you who don’t already know this, HIIT is a form of intense workout that lasts an average of 20 minutes.
While taking up a routine is an excellent idea, becoming generally more active is extremely important.
You can do this by making small changes at first.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator;
Walk your dog for 10 more minutes;
Play with your children outside for a few minutes. Shooting hoops would make everyone happy;
Stand up for a few minutes when at your desk. At first you can do it while talking on the phone;
Allocate a small block of time, during your lunch break, to moving. Even if it’s just 5 minutes it counts;
Take a walk in the evening. Listen to a podcast or an audio book if you need to be entertained.
How to lower cholesterol with supplements
Talking about supplements sounds like we are no longer talking about a natural way to lower your cholesterol. Right?
While you may be right, there is one aspect that you need to remember.
Eating healthy all the time, choosing the right foods, the right amount of fiber and the right amount of healthy fats, might not be for everyone.
I for one dislike fish. Yes, Sushi too. But fish is healthy. It helps lower cholesterol, it improves memory and it protects the heart.
However, I refuse to eat it. But there are many fish oil supplements that provide the same benefits and spare me the dreadful chore of preparing and eating fish.
While I do eat fiber, because I enjoy fiber rich foods, most people don’t.
Supplementing your diet with soluble fiber supplements can have a great impact on cholesterol levels. It was shown to lower bad cholesterol, without impacting good cholesterol or triglycerides.
Flaxseed was also shown to support heart health and to lower LDL cholesterol levels.
While most of us think about cholesterol levels when we receive some sort of bad news from the doctor, this should be addressed early on.
Lowering your cholesterol fast actually translates to working towards it and seeing results in a few months. But you need to remember that a few month’s work means years of health added to your life.
Nowadays, young people should think about their cholesterol levels too, because food is definitely much richer in fats than it used to be 50 years ago. And this, along with lack of exercise is the reason behind today’s obesity pandemic.
Applying all the advice you just learned, and implementing different routines can offer you great results and will definitely help you get your cholesterol levels under control.