Cholesterol is the animal fat manufactured by the liver. It is primarily required for the production of cell membrane, steroid hormones, and bile acids. Cholesterol is not soluble in blood, and hence, it is transported through the circulatory system by the lipoproteins. Though there are five types of lipoproteins, only two of them (HDL and LDL) are known widely. LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein) are the two main lipoproteins, which can have a profound effect on the health of the heart and the cardiovascular system.
LDL cholesterol is termed as the bad cholesterol, while HDL is known as the good cholesterol. The excess LDL circulating in blood tends to collect in the arteries, and causes the buildup of fatty deposits or plaques. This in turn, causes narrowing of the arteries, which can eventually raise the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases. HDL cholesterol on the other hand, helps lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by transporting excess cholesterol from blood to the liver for processing. So, a high level of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of serious health problems. But it is possible to lower or control the level of this lipoprotein naturally, without taking any medication.
Reducing LDL Cholesterol in the Body
The level of LDL in blood is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood. The normal level of LDL is 100 mg/dL or lower. But for people who have a higher risk of developing heart disease, the level of LDL should be less than 70 mg/dL. The key to lower the level of LDL is a healthy lifestyle. For lowering the level of this bad cholesterol, first of all you have to follow a healthy diet. A healthy diet has to be combined with regular physical activity and a few other lifestyle changes, as discussed below.
Follow a Healthy Diet
Basically, you have to follow a low cholesterol diet to lower the level of LDL. You have to lower the consumption of saturated fats, and eliminate the harmful trans fats from your diet. These are the fats that raise the level of LDL cholesterol in the body. Also limit the consumption of meat, especially red meat, as well as whole milk dairy products. Low-fat dairy products, like yogurt and cottage cheese can be consumed in moderation.
In addition to these, include foods that are rich in good or healthy fats like omega-3 essential fatty acids, and mono and polyunsaturated fats in your diet. Examples of such foods are, olive oil, nuts, avocados, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, and fish like salmon, sardines, herring, tuna, and mackerel.
Foods that contain dietary fiber are great for lowering the level of cholesterol in the body. So, include more whole grains, oat bran, oatmeal, beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruits in your diet. Some other nutritious foods and beverages that can be included in your diet are, apples, barley, garlic, green tea, carrots, soy, berries, dark green leafy vegetables, avocados, citrus fruits, grapes, psyllium, orange juice, cranberry juice, black tea, and green tea. Oatmeal is the ideal breakfast for people with high LDL cholesterol.
Exercises, especially aerobic exercises, which raise the heart rate can prove immensely helpful in reducing the level of harmful LDL. The best aerobic exercises for this purpose are, brisk walking, jogging, running, swimming, and cycling. Even yoga and weight-bearing exercises can help decrease the level of this lipoprotein.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Obesity is one of the most widely recognized risk factor for heart disease and many other serious health problems. Obese individuals are often found to have a high level of LDL in blood. Research carried out in this direction have pointed out that losing weight may help decrease the level of LDL in the body. It is possible to maintain a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
Smoking is an unhealthy habit, which if stopped can bring about a significant increase in the level of good HDL cholesterol in the body. Along with increasing the level of HDL cholesterol, quitting smoking can help lower the level of LDL. Smoking can not only increase the level of cholesterol in the body, but can also promote the oxidization of LDL cholesterol, which is one of the most important risk factor for atherosclerosis.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause several health problems, including heart disease. But when alcohol, especially wine is taken in moderation, it may help increase the level of HDL and reduce the level of LDL in our body. Moderation in alcohol consumption usually means one or two drinks per day for men, while women can consume one drink per day.
If the level of LDL cholesterol is very high, then medications may be required to bring it to the normal range. Medications that are commonly used for this purpose are, statins, resins, fenofibrate, cholesterol-absorption inhibitors. These medications should be taken only under the supervision of a health care provider, in order to avoid any undesirable side effects. Even if you are taking these medications, it is important to adopt a healthy lifestyle for the long-term management of this condition.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.