Four ways to lower your cholesterol without medication
You’ve just been told your cholesterol levels are too high. This can be overwhelming and maybe a little scary. But the good news is that if caught early, you can reduce your cholesterol levels naturally and avoid medication.
High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. So, it’s important to understand what it is and how you can control it.
“High cholesterol levels occur when your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or ‘bad’ cholesterol, is high, and your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or ‘good’ cholesterol, is low,” says Layla Al-Rehany, a clinical dietician at The Scarborough Hospital. “Healthy lifestyle and nutrition are crucial to help managing cholesterol levels.”
Here are four healthy lifestyle and nutrition strategies to reduce your cholesterol levels:
Lose weight – being overweight can result in higher LDL and lower HDL. You can improve your cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease by losing about five to 10 per cent of your body weight. So, if you weigh 150 lbs, you would have to lose 7.5 to 15 lbs to reduce your risk.
Increase physical activity – to stay healthy, everyone should exercise about 30 minutes a day five times a week. This can help lower LDL and raise HDL. If you’re not currently active, try starting with a low impact activity such as brisk walking, swimming or a leisurely bike ride.
Change your diet – select foods that are lower in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol. Make sure to include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein in your diet which are good sources of fibre and unsaturated fats. Here are some healthy food options:
- Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fibre foods such as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes contain soluble fibre which reduces your LDL.
- Fish and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of developing blood clots. Try to eat two servings per week of baked or grilled fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel. You can also take a fish oil supplement.
- Skinless lean cuts of meat and poultry.
- Skim or 1 per cent milk, yogurt with 1 per cent milk fat or less, cheese with 15 -20 per cent milk fat or less.
- Unsaturated oils such as canola, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, sunflower or corn – about two tablespoons each day. Use them in marinades, stir fry and salad dressings. When it comes to oils, do not choose “light” versions as they are just more processed and you will get less benefit.
- Non-hydrogenated soft margarine made from unsaturated oils.
- Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts and pistachio nuts can help reduce cholesterol. But they are high in calories, so stick to about a handful per day, and avoid nuts covered in salt or sugar.
Stop smoking – smoking lowers your HDL and raises your LDL. You can reverse these effects if you stop smoking today.
With some hard work and dedication, you can implement all of these strategies into your lifestyle and see significant changes in your blood cholesterol levels.