Doctors and scientists are always looking for new ways to improve human health and increase longevity, but there’s no debate over the long-echoed message to keep cholesterol levels in check. Of course, our bodies need some cholesterol to function properly, but too much can build up in our arteries, increasing the chances of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke. That’s why always keeping in mind the best ways to lower cholesterol and making them part of your daily routine really is so vital to our long-term health.
Are you a coffee addict? If your answer is yes, you may want to consider cutting back on those brewed beans, because, as it turns out, cups of joe may elevate your cholesterol. That’s right, a study examined over 362,000 participants in the U.K. Biobank, ranging in age from 37 to 73 years-old. Researchers focused on the link between coffee intake and plasma lipid profiles — the amount of cholesterol and fat in the blood. Researchers point out that coffee beans contain a potent cholesterol-raising compound called cafestol. And they share that some varieties of coffee contain more of the compound than others. The authors of the study say that “it is especially important for people with high cholesterol or who are worried about getting heart disease to carefully choose what type of coffee they drink.” Is your coffee of choice is on their high-risk list?
You may be thinking: What about good cholesterol? Unfortunately, the whole “good” cholesterol thing may just be a myth. A study reveals that the ‘healthy’ blood fats do not protect against cardiovascular disease and can even increase the risk. Known medically as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the team adds these levels may not be an effective screening tool for patients at risk of heart disease. In the end, this study shows that more of the so called “good” cholesterol may not be beneficial, after all.
It’s time to make your doctor (and heart) happy by getting those cholesterol numbers in check. Below is our list of the consensus best ways to lower cholesterol naturally, according to experts. Of course, we want to hear from you. Comment below to let us know which natural remedy works best to keep your cholesterol within healthy ranges!
The List: Best Ways to Lower Cholesterol Naturally, Per Health Experts
1. Eat Healthy
Ask how to fix or manage many of the body’s ailments and in some way, shape, or form, it typically leads back to making better food choices. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to naturally lowering cholesterol: eating a healthy diet was the most recommended fix by health professionals.
Harvard Health Publishing writes: “Changing what foods you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the armada of fats floating through your bloodstream. Adding foods that lower LDL, the harmful cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging atherosclerosis, is the best way to achieve a low cholesterol diet.” They go on to share that “Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.” And as for a few of the foods they recommend? Try consuming oats, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fatty fish.
Filling up on fiber is recommended by WebMD. They write, “Foods like oatmeal, apples, prunes, and beans are high in soluble fiber, which keeps your body from absorbing cholesterol. Research shows that people who ate 5 to 10 more grams of it each day saw a drop in their LDL. Eating more fiber also makes you feel full, so you won’t crave snacks as much. But beware: Too much fiber at one time can cause abdominal cramps or bloating. Increase your intake slowly.” They also recommended trying to eat fish two to four times a week because they expose you to saturated fats which will lower cholesterol.
Time Magazine writes that “reducing your intake of animal products—especially red meat and processed dairy foods—is a move that research has repeatedly tied to cholesterol improvements…Many Americans consume saturated fats, from eggs and dairy products to red meat, with almost every meal. This sort of immoderation is a problem.”
Exercise seems to be a cure-all, and if it can’t cure something, it’ll still help in many ways. Unfortunately, it’s the thing that many people would prefer to skip. But if you’re trying to forgo using meds in the battle to lower your cholesterol, don’t forgo workouts.
NHS writes, “Aim to do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week…Some good things to try when starting out include walking – try to walk fast enough so your heart starts beating faster; swimming; and cycling…Try a few different exercises to find something you like doing. You’re more likely to keep doing it if you enjoy it.” If you can find a type of exercise that you enjoy, that you don’t necessarily think of as exercise, it’ll help you stick with it for the long run allowing you to improve your cholesterol numbers over time. And that’s the important thing, because exercise isn’t an overnight fix, it’s a longer-term fix that works only when a person uses it consistently.
“Increase your physical activity” is the recommendation by Health Direct. “Physical activity increases levels of HDL cholesterol — the ‘good’ cholesterol that removes LDL cholesterol from the blood. Vigorous aerobic exercise is best. If you haven’t been exercising much lately, gradually build up to the recommended amount of physical activity.”
Health Partners writes, “You might focus on doing something every day, or you could dedicate yourself to just a few days per week. The key is to just get started. For example, do you usually take the elevator? Take the stairs instead. Do you walk your dog every day? Go a little farther than usual or walk at a faster pace. Need to go shopping? Park farther away than you normally do. Catching up on your favorite TV series? Try stretching, dumbbells or kettlebells while you’re watching rather than just sitting on the couch. Also look for chances to bring motion into your daily life, such as walking while you talk on the phone…If you’re feeling good, work up to more intense physical activity, like swimming laps, jogging or hot yoga.”
3. Weight Management
Carrying extra weight, especially around the mid-section, causes many health-related issues. This is why experts recommend maintaining optimal weight for your frame. And using the other four cholesterol-lowering strategies on this list will certainly help in this area.
Mayo Clinic gives some good tips: “If you drink sugary beverages, switch to tap water. Snack on air-popped popcorn or pretzels — but keep track of the calories. If you crave something sweet, try sherbet or candies with little or no fat, such as jellybeans. Look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office. Take walks during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities, such as cooking or doing yardwork.” Combining numbers one and two on our list is a surefire way to get your weight moving in the right direction.
Health Partners writes, “Nutrition labels can help you understand which good nutrients you’re eating, and they can also help you avoid trans fats, one of the worst ingredients for your cholesterol levels. Trans fats, also known as ‘hydrogenated oils’ or ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,’ are sneaky ingredients that may be good for food manufacturers, but they’re not so good for you. Trans fats help make products last longer so they’re easier to ship and store. They’re common in many processed foods, and they’re also present in many baked goods that use margarine or shortening. Unfortunately, they also contribute to raising bad LDL cholesterol levels – while reducing good HDL cholesterol levels.”
“Having excess weight or obesity can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol levels,” writes Healthline. Every 10 pounds of excess fat produces roughly 10 mg of cholesterol per day. The good news is that losing weight, if you have excess weight, can decrease your cholesterol levels. Research shows that people who lost between 5–10% of their weight significantly reduced their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as triglycerides. Those who lost more than 10% of their weight reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels significantly more.”
4. Quit Smoking
Quit for so many reasons, lowering cholesterol being one of them. The secret has been out for many, many years: smoking kills; and not only that, but it has exactly zero benefits to your health. Health Direct writes, “Smoking reduces HDL cholesterol and speeds up the rate at which fatty plaques form in the walls of your arteries. It also makes your blood more likely to clot. These factors increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Stopping smoking is one of the best ways to improve your heart and blood vessel health…Your doctor can help you quit smoking.” If you’d prefer to take matters into your own hands, there are ample over-the-counter products to aid those seeking to quit the smoking habit. And this call to quit applies to vaping as well.
According to Medicine Plus, “Quitting smoking can raise your HDL cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries, having more HDL can help to lower your LDL cholesterol.”
WebMD shares that “In one study, people who stopped smoking saw their ‘good’ cholesterol rise 5% in one year. But if you’re regularly around smokers, take heed: Breathing secondhand smoke every day can also raise levels of bad cholesterol.” And that’s an important reminder: if you’re often around loved ones or friends that smoke, you’re putting your health at risk.
The CDC writes that “there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. People who do not smoke who are exposed to secondhand smoke, even for a short time, can suffer harmful health effects. Since 1964, about 2,500,000 people who did not smoke died from health problems caused by secondhand smoke exposure.”
5. Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation
Though removing alcohol from your life is the best answer, having occasional drinks is the next best. Regularly consuming alcohol wreaks havoc on your health, and, of course, just one of the negative effects is raising cholesterol to unhealthy levels.
NHS recommends that you try to “avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week; have several drink-free days each week; [and] avoid drinking lots of alcohol in a short time (binge drinking)” And if things are to the point to where you feel you’re no longer in control, they say “Ask your GP for help and advice if you’re struggling to cut down.”
And what defines moderation? Mayo Clinic writes: “Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults generally means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.” Though they do warn: “Keep in mind that even moderate alcohol use isn’t risk-free. For example, even light drinkers (those who have no more than one drink a day) have a tiny, but real, increased risk of some cancers, such as esophageal cancer.”
“Alcohol’s role in providing heart-protective benefits is one of today’s major health debates,” writes Healthline. The continue: “Some research indicates that when used in moderation, alcoholic drinks can increase the good HDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease…The AHA does not endorse drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage specifically to lower your cholesterol or improve heart health…Some research recommends that alcohol consumption recommendations be reconsidered in light of its harmful effects on cardiovascular health, even in lower amounts.”
Health Direct writes, “Alcohol can increase your levels of triglycerides. Along with LDL cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides raise your risk of heart disease. Excess alcohol consumption also increases blood pressure and can lead to obesity (due to the kilojoules in alcohol) — both additional risk factors for heart disease.” Which is a great reminder that the recommendations on this list tie into one another. They go on to say that “To reduce the risk of heart disease and other risks from alcohol, limit your intake to no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 drinks per day.”
You may also be interested in:
- Best Ways to Naturally Lower Blood Pressure
- How to Quit Smoking
- Best Weight Loss Programs
- Best Natural Fat Burners
- Mayo Clinic
- Harvard Health Publishing
- Health Partners
- Health Direct
- Medicine Plus
- Time Magazine
- CDC (smoking)
- Mayo Clinic (alcohol)
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